[REVIEW] Contaminated – Em Garner

Em Garner
Random House Egmont (US & CA: 23rd July 2013)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

One of those author blurbs called this book a “debut”. Now, far be it from me to say that a professional user of words doesn’t use them correctly, I leave you with this information: Yes, this is the first book published under the name Em Garner, but that’s actually a pseudonym for a New York Times Bestselling Author, and whose work I really enjoy. This is her first young adult novel, though. So overall debut, no; but in certain circumstances, yes. Actually, I was reading two books during the same period: Contaminated, and one by the author’s adult novels under a non-Em Garner name, and the difference in quality is so vast it’s almost hard to believe they’re written by the same person. I really liked the adult novel, but this YA is just…not good. I almost wish it were her debut, so we’d assume the storytelling would get better with each book. And the only reason I’ll be tuning in to Book 2 is because I like the author’s adult works so much.

Now onto Contaminated itself. I call it a zombie novel, though I don’t remember seeing the Z-word. It’s like how there are vampire novels in which the V-word is never used. Anyhoo, the Contaminated (also referred to as Connies) seem at first to be an analogy for the treatment of dogs, then the elderly, then people with disabilities, and since there doesn’t seem to be a particular analogy, it was probably never an analogy in the first place. My fault for thinking this was deeper than it actually is. Eejit Tez.

Look, I’m just going to refer you to the Bookistry review. It describes the science-fail in this novel. You know me: I love science, and love when it’s used in fiction…correctly. But when used incorrectly, that makes me rant and rave and despair. (I have issues.) But in short: when prions get at your brain, THERE IS NO RECOVERY. Only there is recovery in the book. Why? Special Snowflake. “But, Tezzy,” I hear you say, “what about neuro-plasticity?” First of all, I don’t think that term was ever used in the novel. Second: click the review link, read, and learn. It’s not like a stroke, where there can be recovery. It’s more like forms of dementia: the only way is down. IT DOESN’T GET BETTER. Not very inspiring but that’s real life, and it would be insulting and patronising and condescending to pretend that everything’s going to be okay.

But hey – the book’s fiction, so Special Snowflakes happen, and martyr Velvet knows better than scientists.

If you’re not mentally growling at that, you and I are on two very different wavelengths.

Yes, her name’s Velvet and her sister is Opal. No, I don’t know why their parents thought those were decent names when the kids are probably going to be picked on for them all their lives, but I’m not a parent so our thinking is not similar.

Speaking of getting picked on, ten-year-old Opal (whom I swear seems more like five, or younger due to her temper tantrums) is getting picked on at school because her parents were Contaminated, and they think she might be, too. The principal thinks it would be best to move Opal to another class, and Velvet blows a gasket and takes Opal out of school instead. Because she thinks it’s better to have NO education than SOME education? Velvet says she’ll home-school Opal, which screams of logic-fail to me, because where I come from you have to get a licence to home-school, some form of certification that proves you’re qualified to educate someone. Velvet just threatens to go Contaminated on the principal, and gets her way. So bullying is wrong, but threatening people is totally okay? Oh Velvet, you hypocrite. “Do as I say, not as I do,” right? Some kind of double standards going on, anyway.

And we haven’t even started on Opal yet, who is single-handedly the most annoying character I’ve read in recent memory. I can’t remember wanting to yell at a character so much. Please tell me I wasn’t that much of a brat at ten. I think I was quieter, rather than constantly bitching about everything. (I saved that constant bitching about everything for my twenties, where I keep my rants to typing and not voicing them aloud. Because I’m considerate like that, or whatever.)

And of course the love interest, Dillon, is perfect in every way and he thinks Velvet is perfect in every way, and there’s – I’m not kidding – a ROMANTIC DINNER at home (cooked by Dillon’s mom, but no doubt Dillon could’ve cooked it himself because he’s THAT PERFECT). Now, I’m no expert on teen dating, but does any of that kind of stuff happen in real life? Someone who’s perfect and romantic in every way, or is that the kind of wish fulfilment tripe that’s unfortunately so overdone in fiction nowadays?

As I said, the only reason I’ll be reading Book 2 is because I like the author’s adult novels so much. But I don’t have high hopes.

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