Friday, August 23, 2013

Dystopian Pick: Contaminated

by Em Garner
336 pages

Heartbreaking, taut, and dangerous, Contaminated pulls at the heartstrings. Seasoned author Em Garner ventures into YA lit with this--her compelling debut YA title--and she is here to stay.

The world has changed after the outbreak of the Contamination. Millions were affected by a trendy diet drink craze. ThinPro, the drink of choice, was guzzled not only by those trying to lose weight, but movie stars and celebs were photographed with the popular drink, and that made it go "viral" (pun intended). No one knew that the company couldn't keep up with demand and had to substitute some ingredients.

Suddenly, normal, nice people morphed into violent, raging maniacs. Because of the popularity of cult movies and How-To Survive Zombie Attacks books, the non-infected begin to kill the Contaminated. The government caught Connies and put them in hospitals and treated some of them with lobotomies. Others were kept in filthy, crowded kennels.

Velvet Ellis has been searching for her mother for months. Her mom was captured, but Velvet doesn't give up hope in finding her. Velvet has been both mother and father to little sister Opal since her parents disappeared. She balances school, a part-time job at a nursing home, caring for her sister and their government subsidized apartment, and looking for her mother. When Velvet finds her mother, she fills out the paperwork to bring her home.

Scientists have discoverd that fitting the Connies with a shock collar controls their behavior. It is the only way Velvet's mother is allowed out. Not everyone is happy about the release of the Contaminated. They are shunned everywhere and people are still afraid of them. Velvet's family is forced from their apartment and she loses her job. How will they survive without a home? What will they do for money?

Velvet has to figure out how to survive. She is now responsible for her mother who needs help feeding herself and dressing herself. After a day or two, her mother seems to know her daughters; she seems to be responding. Could her condition be reversed?

Contaminated is a tear-jerker in the best way. It is heartbreaking and sad, but it is hopeful, too. I loved this book! It is dystopian in the best way; the events are completely beieveable. The grid is not so broken that it is non-existent. There is still a government although it has enforced Martial Law. There is still running water and electricity. Cars can still be filled up with gas although it is exhorbitantly priced. Only the rich can afford cars. Grocery stores are still stocked with food, but again, it is pricey. Only the rich can afford to be well fed.

Contaminated is the real deal--the ultimate page-turner. Velvet is an authentic voice, the story is flawlessly told and crafted, and readers will be deeply satisfied. I could not put this book down. Believe me, teens will lose sleep over this one...reading it, that is!

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. No language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the arc from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at


  1. Love it!
    Kathy Spielman
    Yorba Linda, CA 92886

  2. I love dystopian and this sounds good!

    Paris, TN

  3. This sounds great and I can't wait to read it. Please send it to me.
    Franklin, IN

  4. I am another dystopian lover!
    Liza Boman
    Springville, UT

  5. My students can't get enough dystopian books. Thanks for this review about a great sounding book.

    Nibley, Utah

  6. Great review
    Becky Jackman
    Clarksville, TN

  7. I comment all the time and never win!
    Can't wait to get this book. Have you read Sick yet?
    Liz Nebeker
    Houston, TX

  8. I can't wait to read this book!
    New Milford, CT

  9. Interesting twist with the diet drink.
    Mt Juliet, TN

  10. A genre always in demand at my school.

    Winslow, ME