Thanks to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: November 12th, 2019
Synopsis: If you’re going through hell…keep going.
Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up drilling weekend with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby.
But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, out to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos.
In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?
The whole collapsing of civilization and heroic teenagers are the only ones who save everyone, is pretty much the underlying theme of almost every YA dystopian novel out there. Whether the fall of mankind is brought about by alien invasions, zombie apocalypses, AI run amok, sinister scientists, or as it is in this case—a tawdry tale of governmental corruption, dishonesty, greed, arrogance and stupidity—it’s always interesting to see how the next generation will turn things around. I’m happy to say that Day Zero is an exciting and original addition to the dystopian genre that’s certain to appeal to a wide audience. It’s dystopian, yet because of its political and social infrastructure, also manages to be contemporarily relevant.
Jinx, is an utterly relatable and sympathetic character, who as the daughter of a well-known doomsday prepper, hasn’t had the most traditional upbringing. When her world is further upended, she doesn’t suddenly take on superhuman heroic qualities. She’s unsure of herself and makes mistakes. Yes she has some pretty mad skills including Krav Maga, but her self-doubt at times gets her into trouble as does her bickering with her stepsister, MacKenna. Speaking of which, one of my favorite parts about this story is how despite their differences, Jinx and MacKenna are equally protective of Jinx’s precocious younger brother Charles, who is diabetic and sometimes needs to be saved from himself. Charles is also my favorite person in the story because he’s just so darn sweet and adorable, and knows just about everything there is to know about botany. I swear, every scene he was in I just wanted to reach in and hug him!
The story itself thoughtfully explores how in a two-party system, neither side ever gets it absolutely right. I also liked how the idea of doomsday preppers all being crazy is completely upended, although even at the end I don’t think Jinx’s dad should win any Father of the Year awards. There are many twists here, but the biggest comes at the end, and completely had me floored. It also perfectly sets things up for the final book in this duology, Day One, which is set for release in 2020.
As is usually the case in these types of books, some of the scenarios as they play out are a little far fetched, but overall Day Zero successfully combines compelling characters, plenty of action and suspense, mystery, and thoughtful social commentary. One cautionary note though: There’s quite a bit of violence and that combined with the sophistication of the plot itself, definitely makes this geared more for older teens. Otherwise, I highly recommend this to fans of dystopian fiction.