Saturday, January 5, 2013

YA book review: The Farm by Emily McKay

Title: The Farm
Author: Emily McKay

Series: The Farm, Book One
Genre: paranormal, dystopian YA
Publication date: December 4th 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages/Format: Paperback & e-book, 420 pages

Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...

As I have become slightly bored with some of today's paranormal book offerings, I look to the dystopian market to fill the void of craving scary creatures and fantastical worlds. My latest favorite new read is The Farm

The Farm by Emily McKay is one of those books I like to call "quiet giants." The story starts out a bit slow, much like the sunrise heralding a new day, and by the end of the day, I realized not only did I know what I needed to know about these characters and the world they inhabited, I needed to find out more. This story surprised me by hooking me quickly and quietly with its futuristic society of teens living on Farms, kept in check by Collabs while the Dean watches over all, while two sisters scheme to break out. Their story grew on me.

Told in first person POV by twin sisters, Lily and Mel, their sections bridge an immediate connection to the reader. Lily is strong, the survivor, and loves her sister fiercely. Mel has such a uniquely powerful presence, the more I read of her small, usually half a page to two pages, I was taken by the knowing brevity of this special mind. The musicality and the rhythm of the nursery rhythms revealed her own characteristics brilliantly. The third POV belongs to Carter, told in third person, which raises a certain level of suspicion, making the reader take in the whole picture of who he is and why he's really there. The distancing of his narration made me study him carefully and yet, the more I read, the more I liked.

 Often times I find myself plowing through books to make my review deadlines, but as a reader I need to ENJOY them as well. Not the case here--I really liked the entire story and deliberately took my time reading it. Lily quickly became my favorite and I loved her insightful musings, how she looked at the world she was stuck in on the Farm, how she wanted to escape and give her sister another way to live. Once they were out, witnessing the unfolding events and thrilling moments, I found myself liking all of the characters. I am so grateful for the absence of insta-love and beautiful people falling in love. Ok, Carter was hot but his body was scarred and Lily was pretty, yet their relationship was complex and his claims about the "abductura" added another dimension to an already layered story.

Intense, creepy, and addicting, there is so much to like about The Farm. Emily McKay has created some twisted zombie-like monsters with the Ticks and Sebastian gives new meaning to the term "vampire." The social structure and how teens are treated and segregated made for an intriguing new world order. I will not give the ending away but I am nervously waiting to see what happens next after the tense, nail biting, build up to the climax of book one. I will have to wait until November to read book two, The Lair, and then in December a prequel entitled The Before will be available. Dystopian and paranormal fans--heck, fans of well written stories--should definitely check out The Farm

Rating: 4 Really liked it

Favorite excerpt:
     "I wanted to protest. I wanted to scream. I wanted that monster out of the car and as far away from me as possible. Instead, I made myself look at him.
     He looked much like he had before the attack of the Ticks. His clothes were more wrinkled, but the blood hardly showed. His skin was still unnaturally pale, his lips too bright a red.
     Maybe Carter's approach would have worked. Maybe I should have just blocked out my memory of the truth. But I didn't want to forget what he was capable of. I wanted the image of him crouched over a body drinking human blood to be the first thing that came to my mind every time I thought of him. But knowing his nature and letting myself fear him were two different things.
     Yet Carter was right. We needed him. Sebastian's spidey-sense would tell us where the Ticks were. And he was obviously more than capable of killing them. He might be the only chance we had of getting Mel back.
     Underneath my revulsion was a seed of something else. Fear, maybe. Not fear of him but fear of myself.
     I'd said all along that I would do anything to protect Mel. Would I kill to get her back? If I planned to kill the Dean, if I thought about it logically before acting, was that any better than Sebastian killing someone in a fit of bloodlust? Was I just as much a monster as he was?"

Cover comment: I'm surprised at how much I find the simplicity of the cover art effective. The red lettering of the title and the shock of red from Lily's hood is instantly atmospheric and the barb wiring only makes it more intense.

Book source: I received a paperback copy from the publisher.


  1. Great review!! I read this and liked it as well!!!!

  2. Hi! Thank you. So glad you like The Farm too! Thanks for commenting:)

  3. I have been dying to read this book! Thank you for the great review :)