Saturday, March 26, 2011

Viral by Alex Van Tol

Viral by Alex Van Tol
ISBN: 1554694116
Orca, 2011
136 p.

Plot Summary: This story follows the relationship between Mike and Lindsay, two high school seniors. They start out as best friends who hang out and just talk all of the time. At a party at the beginning of summer, Mike realizes his love for Lindsay but she sees a girl named Scarlett forcing herself on him and mistakes it for something serious. Over the summer, Lindsay seems to have ditched her old athletic self for a weight obsessed popularity magnet. Lindsay seems to be making dangerous choices and Mike can't decide whether or not to intervene or just forget about his missed opportunity. Once a viral video of a nude Lindsay gets out, things really start to take a turn for the worse.

Critical Analysis: This line of books is written specifically for reluctant readers. As a result, it was very short and pulpy even. The only backstory is what is necessary and there are almost no other characters besides Mike and Lindsey. The plot is almost soap operatic, but in an entertaining way. Van Tol does not pad the book out with any unnecessary details and makes for a good quick read.

Like many young adult books, Viral tackles many issues that are relevant to teens today. Van Tol treats some well, and others not so well. Mike seems averse to drugs and alcohol, like many young adult protagonists. It is implied that Lindsey is date raped in the book and Mike's reaction is to beat up those responsible. Lindsey's biggest worry is her reputation. While I agree this might be how teenagers think, I was flabbergasted that Van Tol left it at that.

In that same vein, Viral sets up many problems for its characters, but frustratingly does not resolve them. I know this is a pulp book and ambiguous or cut-short types of endings are conducive to the format, but I found it frustrating nonetheless. Overall, I think Viral does hit its target audience in that it is a fast and entertaining read that doesn't take too much thinking to enjoy.

Reader's Annotation: Mike's best friend is Lindsey, but his feelings for her are turning to love. When she starts making dangerous decisions, how will he break through to his former best friend?

Author Information: Van Tol has also written a few other books for Orca, including a book called Knifepoint. He also writes nonfiction books for teenagers.

Source: author page

Genre: realistic fiction, drama

Curriculum Ties: This book could be used in a health class to discuss drug use at parties and the dangers of date rape.

Booktalking Ideas: What is the fate of Lindsey after the last page ends?

Are Mike and Lindsey right for each other as lovers or just friends?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13-16

Challenge Issues: Drug use, sexual scenes

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: Including a book that is especially tailored towards reluctant readers seems like a good idea. This was also a bit of a guilty pleasure, what with all of the high school drama, sex, and drug use. I think it has that instant appeal much like reality television or soap operas.

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