Author: Emily McKay
Publication Date: December 4, 2012
Series: The Farm #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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 does - 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...
The perspective alternates between Lily, her autistic twin sister Mel, and Carter. I enjoyed each character and liked their chapters pretty equally. Lily is smart and sarcastic. Mel has an interesting view of the world. And Carter has something of a little desperate hero complex going on. I enjoyed Lily's wit, Mel's eccentricity, and Carter's willingness to act.
Each character's chapters have a unique point of view. Lily's chapters are written in first person past, while Mel's are first person present. It sounds a little weird, but I didn't mind it because it provided a unique perspective to Mel's autism and I get the sense that she is always living in the present. So I like that the tense shift is able to convey that. Carter's POV, though, is a limited omniscient third person past tense. I'm not a particular fan of reading one character in first person and the other in third. It doesn't necessarily bother me, but I guess I just don't get it, either. Some of the POV shifts are awkward. For example, one chapter transition goes from Lily's first person to Carter's third person, but the Carter chapter started with "They..." blah blah blah. And I had to reread the sentence because the transition didn't flow and I initially thought "They" was referring to other people rather than the group of characters I was already reading about. I kept looking for the antecedent. It bugged me. It would have been so much easier as "We".
Action and suspense in The Farm are abundant and make the pacing quick. The worldbuilding successfully creates a post-apocalyptic atmosphere and mood. The premise is completely creepy, with kids being kept on farms where their blood is taken to feed the monsters. This totally would have been a 4 or 4.5 star read if it wasn't for one thing that messed with the horror vibe and turned into something more paranormal. To me, the best thing this story had going for it was the creepy, gory, psychological, scary stuff. But then this random ability thing is thrown in, permeating the rest of the story, and that brought my adoration down a notch. I wanted and expected sci-fi/PA/horror and I got this extra infusion of paranormal, and, though I really liked the story, I feel it would have been more successful and appealing without the addition of the ability. As soon as this mysterious power came up in the story (which is fairly early - Chapter 6), my interest went from a 10 down to a 6 or so. Some of the plot occurrences felt a little forced at times or the logic wasn't properly explained. It didn't detract too much from the disturbing fun, but I still think it could have been better thought out in a few places.
Despite the paranormal ability coming in and dragging my apocalyptic excitement down a little, I still liked the book. The stuff that happens at the end is pretty crazy, and I didn't see some of it coming. I certainly enjoyed it enough to read the next one.