by Laura Bickle
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This one had so much potential. Why? It's a post-apocalyptic novel involving the Amish and vampires! How could that not be great?
Unfortunately, it fell really flat for me. While I appreciated the attempt at world-building, I thought it took up far too much of the book. The book either needed to be longer (to include more action), or some of the everyday Amish stuff needed to be cut back. After reading this, I feel disappointed. It seemed that there was so much build-up and not enough payoff. The final showdown was little more than a few pages, and we were left with an ending that did little more than usher in a sequel.
I also wasn't taken with the characters. Katie, the narrator, came across as way too non-Amish at times (granted, I'm not sure how real Amish would speak... but she seemed awfully worldly for someone who had grown up in such a community). Alex, the young man she finds injured in a field, was obviously the love interest from the moment he stepped onto the page... and yet, I sensed no real chemistry between the two of them. Perhaps that was because he was kind of a mixed-up character, not quite sure if he wanted to be flirty and teasing or serious and philosophical. I honestly never got a feel for him, even though there were plenty of opportunities to develop his character. (His ex-girlfriend was presumably torn apart by the vampires... and we really don't know how he feels about it!) I thought that Katie had more chemistry with Elijah, her childhood friend, before he went through a sudden (and rather unbelievable) change in character, for no apparent reason. The Elders and the Bishop were also problematic for me; they seemed to exist only to provide some much-needed conflict. They were overly proud and dictatorial, and I question whether some of their actions would even be contemplated by true Amish folks.
The vampire aspect was interesting and suitably gory (and I mean really gory; those with weak stomachs should give this one a pass). It was probably the most well thought-out part of the whole book. The reveal at the end, when some things are explained, made sense. However, that scene was just too short and easily resolved, which made me feel cheated, and like I had just read 300+ pages for nothing. Aside from getting a few answers, readers are just shunted off to the next book, hoping that something more exciting will happen there.
Overall: 2.43 out of 5