Just Finished Reading: Countdown by Michelle Rowen and Sick by Tom Leveen

by Michelle Rowen
Published by Harlequin Teen
on September 24, 2013

Source: e-ARC for review via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on the right sidebar.

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Summary from Booklikes: 3 seconds left to live.  Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 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 ever more 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. GAME 0VER...
My take: First, some background. Michelle Rowen (who also writes the YA Falling Kingdoms series as Morgan Rhodes) first published Countdown in July 2008 as adult fiction under the name Michelle Maddox.  A mere two weeks later, another book about a fight-to-the-death reality competition came out and became a worldwide phenomenon. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles…

This 2013 version of Countdown has been rewritten as YA.When I read that this book was being redone as YA, I read the original. I think the story works much better as a young adult story. The adult version of Countdown is filled with steamy sex scenes, which is all well and good, but if you're fighting for your life, do you really have time for that? Plus, as it says in the blurb, Kira has every reason to hate Rogan, and I think the PG-13 version of their romance was much more plausible, given the circumstances.

Countdown is a fast-paced, plot-driven read, which is not usually my preferred kind of book, but sometimes just what I'm in the mood for. The book starts with a bang and and the tension never really lets up. Kira's backstory is quickly sketched, and then she's thrown into the game with Rogan. Her telepathic ability an interesting twist, and I loved trying to figure out how Rogan could say that he was a cold-blooded murderer when he didn't seem that way to me. For me, the relationship between Rogan and Kira and the way it affected them in their challenges was what made this book fun and compelling.

by Tom Leveen
To be published by Amulet Books
on October 1, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Summary from Booklikes: Brian and his friends are not part of the cool crowd. They’re the misfits and the troublemakers—the ones who jump their high school’s fence to skip class regularly. So when a deadly virus breaks out, they’re the only ones with a chance of surviving. The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. The whole school goes on lockdown, but Brian and his best friend, Chad, are safe (and stuck) in the theater department—far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids Brian had never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy, and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates.

My take: Like Countdown, Sick is an action-packed, plot-driven story.  I gave this ARC to my teen reviewer, Teen Snark, because he's a big Walking Dead fan. He has a lot of homework and was unwilling to be grilled at length, but had this to say: "The characters were cliche and the plot didn't go anywhere."

So I pointed out to him that the plot of The Walking Dead is pretty much: wander, wander, kill zombies, wander, wander. Teen Snark countered by saying that there are also character-driven subplots in The Walking Dead. Okay, fine. He usually wins our arguments through sheer force of will. While the characters in Sick are given a few hastily sketched traits, I didn't find them particularly well-developed. I also wasn't happy that two female characters were given illnesses that made Brian, the main character, feel even more obligated to rescue them from the marauding zombies. Yes, this upped the stakes, but also gave each of these girls a fragile, damsel-in-distress feel. Why not make the guy the one who needs rescuing once in a while?

If you like gory zombie action, you will definitely find plenty of that here. Sick doesn't skimp on the blood and guts and violence. There's also a fair amount of swearing, if that kind of thing is an issue for you. I was definitely absorbed by the story, and interested to see how it came out. Even though I usually shy away from really gross books, the gross parts in this one one didn't bother me all that much.  If you enjoy a fast-paced, blood-spattered, suspenseful read, you might like it just fine, and this book would be perfect for reluctant teen readers. If you prefer a trapped-in-a-school-with-zombies book with more substance, try This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. Teen Snark and I both liked that one a lot.


  1. Glad to hear that it starts with a bang and keeps then tension going. Just what I need at times, like you

  2. I didn't know that Countdown was first and adult book! Very interesting info there, thank you for sharing! I hadn't actually heard of Countdown until reading a couple reviews...none of which were all that great :-( I think I'll stick with her fantasy books.
    I attempted to read Sick and had to DNF it because the dialog was so immature and grating to me.
    My Friends Are Fiction

  3. Glad to heard that Countdown works as a YA title-I wasn't sure when I heard about that change just because it seems kind of random. I wonder if other authors will follow suit (probably if Countdown does well!)

    As for Sick, I like that it's stuck in school but I adored This Is Not a Test so much that I probably won't like this (also not into the gore or swearing).

  4. Thanks for these reviews. I look forward to reading SICK because I'm so into zombies right. mostly cause of the The Walking Dead.

  5. Great reviews! I'm definitely planning on reading Countdown, but will skip the adult version. I'll also skip Sick. Just not my type of thing. :)

  6. I read Countdown as YA and thought it was pretty good! I loved how fast paced the story was :) But I've not check out the adult version and Sick sounds pretty good! I really want to check it out. Great reviews :)

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

  7. It would have been a really weird book if Countdown was adult O.O

    Fab reviews, Jen! <33

  8. I think it is interesting how Countdown came about. And you are so right, when fighting for your life sex is usually not very important. lol I'd like to check out Countdown. I do love Falling Kingdoms by the author.

  9. Great reviews and I love teen snarks take on Walking Dead..LOL Adding Countdown to my list.


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