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Book Review: Quarantine 2: The Saints by Lex Thomas (reviewed by Chris Dahl)

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” is a line from The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again.  If we are inexplicably trying to find the right lyric from a Who song to describe the new Quarantine book, it’s either that or “It’s only teenage wasteland,” from Baba O’Riley.  I kept recalling both of those songs while reading Quarantine: The Saints, book 2 in the Quarantine series by Lex Thomas.  Or as I like to call it, “Teens Behaving Badly.”
                I’ll freely admit that I could barely recollect anything that took place in the first book and therefore I spent some time trying to re-familiarize myself with the characters.  I did, however, remember that brothers David and Will had managed to form a formidable gang out of dozens of rag-tag, unwanted, ill-fitted students, called The Loners.  With the protection and camaraderie of the gang, The Loners were able to claim food, supplies, and living space in the very nearly destroyed hallways of McKinley High School.
 
   
                For those of you who may need or want to be caught up to speed, allow me to give you a quick recap.  On Will’s first day of his freshman year at McKinley High School, he and older brother David, quarterback of the football team, witness the deaths of all teachers and faculty on campus and are soon quarantined in the school by military forces.  The explanation being that all teens going through puberty carry a virus that is deadly to all pre- and post-pubescent people and in the hopes of research and possibly curing this virus, the teens will be locked in the school until “graduation”, a day when the student’s puberty is nearing completion and they are no longer a threat to the outside world.  The students soon form gangs, alliances, enemies, etc.  Needless to say, it becomes a debauched mess of sex and violence. Read our 5 star The Loners book review for more information.
                The story pretty much remains the same throughout The Saints.  However, David is gone and, lacking his leadership, The Loners begin to defect to other gangs, despite Will’s best efforts to rally the troops.  Soon Will finds himself without a gang and, with no way to protect himself or fight for supplies, he becomes an easy target. This is a fight for survival and superiority inside the walls of a high school in a way you have never seen before.
               The second book closely resembles the first book, with new characters added and the menacing roles taken over by new faces.  It’s a PG-13 book, but only just.  The language, sex, and violence is unlike anything I’ve read in a YA novel before.  Think of a modern day Lord of the Flies.  And hey, there is even a wild pig!
               
The story starts off well and then the action tapers off considerably in the middle as characters reassess their loyalties and despots are overthrown.  The last third of the book is where the action is and the ending is well-executed, though perhaps slightly foreseeable.  Overall, the second installment didn’t grip me the way the first did but if you’ve read the first book in the series and are familiar with the characters, the situation they find themselves in, and are ready to live with them in the dingy halls of McKinley High School again for a little while, then go for it.  You will certainly be shocked by what people are are capable of, and like Lords of the Flies, that really is the one of the points of the series.

Daniel Kraus calls this “the darkest series going” in a starred review. (Booklist May 1, 2013).