Fragments by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thought I had a good idea of what to expect from the dystopian YA genre, and from this series. This is the second book, so one expects a certain amount of wheel-spinning and delaying tactics. Instead, this is a ramping-up of an already intriguing series.
In Partials, Kira Walker found a one-time cure for RM, the disease that killed most of humanity and kills all newborns after just a couple of days. But it's not a permanent solution. In Fragments, she goes to the Manhattan headquarters of ParaGen, the biotech company that manufactured Partials, seeking a permanent answer. Back on Long Island, her longtime boyfriend and all the friends she left behind struggle with a Partial invasion, as Dr. Morgan comes looking for her.
There are several perspective shifts within Fragments, but they're all a necessary part of the narrative, and they serve to wind the dramatic tension tighter with every passing scene. Every new thing the characters learn just makes things look more bleak and hopeless.
Not that the book is a series of tragedies. Bad things happen, and Kira's faith that there must be a solution is severely tested. Choices have consequences, and even decisions that look like the right ones turn out to have negative consequences. But the narrative has bright spots. One gets the idea that, if there is a solution, Kira will wrench it out of its hiding place. How she'll do it, and how many will die along the way, is where the tension comes in.
Unfortunately, like all middle books of a trilogy, Fragments has to leave a lot of conflicts unanswered by the time it wraps up. So, while there is a resolution, it's not a very satisfying one. It's a good reason to pick up book 3, but my expectation that would happen is why I was so reluctant to pick up book 2 for so long. The resolution also depends on a character monologuing at length, which, for all it revealed, got tiresome. But these are minor complaints in a very enjoyable page-turner.
This is an excellent addition to an intriguing series that I feel stands out from most dystopian YA. If nothing else, it's a master class in building narrative tension.
I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Julia Whelan. Her narration is crisp and easy to understand, though a lot of her male characters sound similar. And I don't know if it was the library copy I borrowed, or if it's the original audio, but it had a metallic quality that muffled the audio. It's not the audio quality I've come to expect from HarperAudio.
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