Author of the Dark Kiss series, Michelle Rowen has republished Countdown. Unfortunately, I do not think time has done any favors for this YA dystopia.
Book Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen
Title & Author: Countdown (Harlequin Teen) by Michelle Rowen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction – Fantasy, Magic
Release Date: October 1, 2013
How I Got the Book: ARC via Netgalley
2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.
Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.
1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.
Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.
The Final Countdown
Countdown suffers from a few unfortunate problems. The biggest one is that the title was originally released in 2008 and has been revamped and rereleased now. The problem is that it has striking similarities to The Hunger Games.
Although Countdown was initally published at virtually the same time as The Hunger Games (so little chance of copying/influence), the dilemma is that The Hunger Games is the book everyone knows and loves already.
Even if you know the information above, which I did before I started reading, it still didn’t help me distance the two novels in my mind. I couldn’t help but compare them. And, my comparison didn’t do Countdown any favors.
The book is set during the aftermath of a super deadly virus that killed 60 percent of the Earth’s population. Despite that huge setback, technology surged ahead and the development of underground reality competition shows rose in popularity. Kira has never heard of the shows and is little acquainted with technology, but all that changes when she wakes up chained to a strange boy and is forced to fight for her life.
What made The Hunger Games such a standout read was the tension, the realization that Katniss’ success could mean something for her family and for her district. I could picture her city, and I could imagine the extravagance of the Capital and the horror of the games. Countdown‘s world was not so easy to picture. There is a city…just with fewer people. Very few descriptions and very little background that made sense (it was very implausible to me).
Kira herself has lost her family from a brutal murder a few years ago in which she barely escaped. I felt no connection to Kira and her loss. It was used as a ploy to push Kira onward throughout the story, but it was obvious to me. Too convenient of a history for her.
What saved Countdown was the levels. In the game Kira and Rogan (the strange boy she’s stuck with throughout the show) are thrust in, they are forced to complete a task that’s timed in each level in order to move on in the game. This created a sense of urgency not only with the characters but with the reader.
I zoomed through this book like you wouldn’t believe. The sad part is that the non-stop action propelled me, not any interest in the characters’ lives or growth.
If you are looking for an original YA dystopia, unfortunately I cannot recommend this book. It was too similar to The Hunger Games to offer anything new to the genre. I think there’s a reason why The Hunger Games rose to acclaim over other novels. The Countdown was just OK.