Guest Post by Shelbi Wescott + Review: Virulent

Why I wrote Virulent 

My creative writing students always say to me, “I don’t know what to write about.” And unfortunately, I don’t have any magic pill that creates ideas when the well is dry. At any given time, I have dozens of half-fleshed out novels swimming around inside my brain. Some of those might become decent short stories, and some may die horrible deaths in the bottom of my desk-drawer. But when a really awesome idea comes along, I think you know. You grasp on to it and don’t let go. 

With Virulent, I knew. After years of writing literary fiction and querying and meeting rejection after rejection, I hadn’t ever thought of delving into genre writing. Then I met Kevin. 

Kevin was a struggling freshman with an attitude, a potty mouth, and litany of complaints against reading. He arrived to my reading class four years ago hating every book I tried to pitch him, and he was so vocal about his hatred that I almost gave up hope. We had just finished a post-apocalyptic book that I was certain he would love, but even that one fell short. 

“That book was so bad,” Kevin told me. “I bet even you could write something better than this.” He meant it as a dig. I took it as a challenge. 

His one sentence sparked something. I asked Kevin to make a list. “Tell me what you want in a book.” I took the list and started to write what would become Virulent. Kevin wanted action, fast-paced chapters, cliffhangers; he wanted villains with depth and limited romance. I combined his list with my own list of the type of books I’d want to teach: I like strong female characters, powerful imagery, good vocabulary, and themes worth discussing. 

When I finished Virulent, I went back through those lists and deemed it a success in the category of meeting Kevin’s and my requirements. It kept me focused in a way where my other writing had not. When the narrative meandered or when I felt unable to write another word, I’d go back to those lists and think: “You told Kevin you were writing him a book he’d love. Don’t give up.” 

Having that end goal in mind was helpful. After I wrote the last word and printed off pages and handed them to Kevin, I waited with baited breath. Would he like it? Did I do an okay job? Did I stick to his list? 

The short answer is: Yes. Kevin read and enjoyed Virulent and that made this entire experience worth every second. However, beyond that, I love the book too and I’m proud that I decided to accept his challenge. I wasn’t looking to write a YA science-fiction series, but writing it was fun, thrilling, and rewarding. And readers seem to think so too, which is more than I ever could have asked for.

Connect with Shelbi Wescott:

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*
Lucy King is only an hour away from embarking on the most incredible vacation of her life: White sandy beaches in a tropical paradise, snorkeling and sunbathing in peaceful tranquility. But as Lucy looks forward to her trip, a sinister plot is unfolding that will demolish the world as she knows it. An unknown bio-terrorist group unleashes a virus that virtually wipes out the earth’s population—leaving Lucy, and a small faction of survivors, trapped inside her high school to wait out the apocalypse.

As war, looting, and death wreak havoc outside, inside, the students must contend with a tyrannical and paranoid principal and their own struggles of being orphaned, frightened, and unsure of what the future will bring.

What begins as a basic fight for survival turns into a search for answers that will challenge everything Lucy has ever known about her life and her family.
Lucy is almost on her way to the vacation of her life when animals and humans start dying, just like that. Panic all around and the school goes into lockdown. She has any idea to what is going on, while everyone around her starts dropping like flies. The teachers won't talk about it and the principal has gone into tiran mode.

Now stuck in school, Lucy and her friends have to try to survive, while the principal has gone loco. There is no way in and no way out. They try to come up with a plan, but they are mostly waiting for someone to come save them. Since the world is pretty much ending, they have no way to communicate with anyone outside. Trying to avoid being caught, more and more questions start rising about what is happening.
"Paranoia was a trait that Lucy had inherited from her deceased grandmother."
Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Lucy. She is very much a daddy's girl and with everything that is happening, she keeps thinking of what her dad or mom would do in that situation. In the beginning she also immediately starts panicking, there is no attempt at staying calm or brave. So she's a very unlikely hero, if she is in fact a hero? Slowly in the story, her calmness returns, but she keeps burning with questions.

The character I liked the most was Grant, he's a fellow student of Lucy. He stays by her side, but there is absolutely nothing romantic going on between them. What I liked the most about him was that he keeps surprising you. Bit by very slowly bit you get to know his story, still most remains a mystery.
"I hate getting in the middle of dra-ma," Salem lied. Drama found its way into Salem's everyday existence.
And then there is Salem. She's Lucy's best friend and also stuck with her and Grant in the school. Now Salem is more the opposite of Lucy. First of all, she loves drama, so even though there is this major tragic event going on, most of the time she can keep her cool. Salem was also one of the first characters who witnessed first hand all the misery and tragedy, which gives her an extra edge.
"It's war out there. There are guns and fires. People are assaulting each other."
The story takes mostly place inside the school and not that much happens actually. All the action is taking place outside the school, so it's a very calm beginning of a saga (relatively speaking). As they say in the book, inside their is only one threat, outside is the unknown. Unfortunately this means they can't seem to come up with a plan to save themselves, it's mostly them waiting around to be saved.

Virulent is said to be a Young Adult book, but I find it more suited for Middle Grade readers. The lack of real violence, even though the theme is apocalypse, almost no romance, the very easy and clear use of language, makes that it lacks necessary complexity for me. Not a bad read, but sometimes a bit too tedious to keep my interest. I need some more action, which will hopefully be the case in the second book.

Total Book Geek

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