“Is there any greater mystery than the separateness of each person?”
The Book Itself: Rain down a windowpane? Watercolor splotches? Glitter? Some kind of texture. Definitely makes that commanding title stand out.
My Review: Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients—including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.
As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.
Oh, I so wanted this to be fantastic. It sounds eerie, it’s got my favorite elements in it (hellooooo dystopia). But it falls just short enough.
Over half of the story is spent in the Hospital. Just as creepy as it sounds. Patients who are considered immune from the plague that has swept across America (and the world? It’s unclear whether it’s worldwide or not), are kept captive in this abandoned Hospital. They share a TV. They are tested weekly, their blood is taken to be studied every couple of days, and they basically walk around like zombies, looking to fill their time with something.
Which is kind of how that huge chunk of the book feels. A little aimless. It’s eerie, sure, and of course the authorities in charge at the Hospital are hiding something. Or a couple somethings. But for the most part, the patients wander. They recall life before the plague (Joy’s was a life shuffled between foster homes and getting high on cough syrup). But it’s pretty much…boring for that majority of the story.
The next section of the book goes wayyyy past nothing happening into too many way-past-weird things happening. Joy and her childhood friend (who you never learn much of anything about. He has a scarred face and wears plastic masks much of the time) find this house. In this house is a lady who wears angel wings and takes an unknown drug to hear voices in the basement. The man she lives with is abusive and makes them play games in the woods.
It is exactly as weird as it sounds. It feels like you’re on a kind of drug trip the whole time you’re reading it. I’m not sure if I was supposed to get anything from it, but at this point in the book, I just wanted it to say something meaningful, say something that made sense!!
It doesn’t. And Joy’s quest to find her mother? Never comes to fruition. Frustrating, at so many points in the story.
It is, at some points, beautifully written. I pinpointed some quotes and imagery that I thought were particularly poignant. But the plot was too patchy, the characters too flimsy to really stick with me.
My Grade: C-