Synopsis ~ A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief–she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people…and no answers.
She knows only one thing about herself–her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin–yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust one another.
Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.
“I open my eyes to darkness. Total darkness. I hear my own breathing, but nothing else. I lift my head…it thumps against something solid and unmoving. There is a board right in front of my face. No, not a board…a lid.”
Okay. Right there I was totally wigged out! I’ve always had a fear of being buried alive, (along with being eaten by sharks, and trapped in a burning house or car). I blame my father and all the scary movies we used to watch together!
Anyway, beginning with this claustrophobic scene, Scott Sigler takes his characters and his readers on a journey that is filled with many twists and turns (figuratively as well as literally)! I always do my best not to include any major spoilers in my reviews, but as the author has specifically requested that reviewers refrain from including them in their posts, I’m going to make a extra effort to honor his wishes.
The heart of the book is M. Savage, or as she winds up calling herself, “Em”. This is a teenager who has the mantle of leadership thrust upon her and struggles with all the responsibilities that come with it throughout the entire book. She’s a strong character who makes mistakes along the way, but except for a couple of mis-steps, is determined to do the right thing and validate the trust the other teens have placed in her.
The other characters aren’t as fully developed. This is partly because the narrative is told through Em, and also because there’s so much going on in terms of world-building, there’s little time for anything else. I’m hoping that in the next book, some of them also get a voice. I think it would make things even more interesting.
Starting with the first scene of the teens emerging from their “coffins”, not knowing who or where they are, the author masterfully sets up this mysterious and menacing prison-like atmosphere. At times there seems to be scenes featuring the group endlessly walking down corridors as they attempt to find a way out, but somehow I never found myself bored because there was always something else happening. There’s also a continuous air of suspense and forboding, because lurking in the background is that ever present sense of anxiety due to fear of the unknown.
It’s not that often when I can say my jaw literally dropped, but when the truth is finally revealed, it was definitely the case here. The big reveal doesn’t happen until the last part of the book, but believe me. It’s worth the wait. I had all sorts of theories and not one of them came close.
Alive is completely different than any of Scott Sigler’s adult fiction, yet his imaginative writing skills are definitely on display in his first YA effort. I think anyone who’s a fan of science-fiction, and dystopian-themed books like The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and even the classic Lord of the Flies will enjoy this. It’s a rollercoaster ride that will remind you of some of the things we all fear the most and it will keep you guessing right up until the very end!