By Emily McKay
Available now from Berkley (Penguin)
Review copy courtesy of Krystal of Live to Read
THE FARM starts on the campus of The University of North Texas*, but it's no longer a college. It's, well, a farm. Teenagers are divided into three groups: Greens, Breeders, and Collabs. They're all trying to survive the Ticks, who live outside the electrified fence surrounding the school. The Ticks feed on human blood, and they like teenagers best. Lily and her twin sister are about to age out.
Thus, Lily and Mel plan to escape. There are two major complications. Lily's old crush Carter shows up out of the blue, eager to reconnect, and Mel's barely functioning in the farm, whereas before the Ticks she could communicate fairly well despite her autism. And even more unfortunately for the girls, their lives will only get more complicated after they escape.
Lily tended to rub me the wrong way. She's sometimes good with tactics and strategy, other times horrible with them. She'll create a very smart, well-reasoned plan one moment and then stupidly charge into danger the next. Oftentimes things would've gone much more smoothly if she trusted other people's skills. And I didn't like the way she treated Mel. Wanting to protect your sister is noble. Referring to her as your burden, not so much. I loved when one of the supposed-to-be-less-sympathetic characters tried to convince Lily that Mel was her own person and responsible for her own decisions. And I really hated the ending, where Lily overrides a very important decision that Mel makes. Yes, Mel has autism, but she's not incompetent.
But aside from never really getting into Lily's journey, I enjoyed THE FARM. (I take it back - I also didn't like that Carter's sections are written in third person while Lily and Mel's are written in first. It served no purpose and I found it distracting.) The adventure plot is excellent, with lots of suspense and occasional gruesomeness. The take on vampire lore was very original. I'd been getting kind of bored of vampire books, but THE FARM and BLACK CITY prove that there are many interesting interpretations of the genre still to be written.
I suspect many readers will love THE FARM. It's got romance and horror, a road trip, and it blends fantasy and post-apocalyptic elements in an intriguing way. (And fantastic post-apocalyptic definitely seems like a growing genre to me. I've reviewed several books that fit that description lately.) And I would've loved it if Lily didn't annoy me so much. I don't think we were supposed to entirely agree with her treatment of Mel, considering Emily McKay does have a character say something about it, but it really bugged me instead of seeming like a loving sisterly relationship. While I'd also dislike her being perfect all the time, I found it hard to believe that a person whose goal is getting herself and her sister to safety kept putting herself in unnecessarily dangerous situations. But I need to stop talking about that because you probably don't believe me when I say I though the book was fun now.
*I assume. A university in North Texas associated with green? It's not a liberal arts university as described, but a research university; however, everything else fits.