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Review by Hannah - Half Lives

29 Jul 2013


Present day: Icie is a typical high school teenager - until disaster strikes and her parents send her to find shelter inside a mountain near Las Vegas.

The future: Beckett lives on The Mountain - a sacred place devoted to the Great I AM. He must soon become the leader of his people. But Beckett is forced to break one of the sacred laws, and when the Great I AM does not strike him down, Beckett finds himself starting to question his beliefs.

As Beckett investigates The Mountain's history, Icie's story is revealed - along with the terrifying truth of what lies at the heart of The Mountain.


Like the title, the story is one of two halves. One narrative is from Icie’s perspective, as she, Tate, Marissa and Chaske meet in today’s time and try to find refuge from the terrorist biological warfare unleashed on America. The second narrative is by Beckett and Harper, who exist sometime in the post apocalyptic future. I found the first change of narrative a little jarring as I was really getting into Icie’s story, and it took me a little while to get used to the strange society that Beckett and Harper lived in, with their language, religion and politics revolving around popular teen culture, sayings and slang.

Throughout the story I remained much more invested in Icie’s story, perhaps because I knew the context for why she was hiding in a mountain bunker, whereas I had little clue as to where Beckett’s ragtag bunch had come from. It may also be because Icie’s narrative was in first person, where the future narrative was in third. Either way I enjoyed reading about Icie and was hooked on finding out what would happen to her group. However I was a little intrigued to figure out how Icie’s and Beckett’s stories linked together, and the more I read the more the two stories came together and started to make sense as a whole.

The concept for the story was really interesting, and crossed (pre and) post-apocalyptic drama with a dystopian feel. The scary thing for me was that the terrorist scenario that Icie was faced which was easily imaginable and utterly terrifying. When the general public started to realise that something serious had happened, with planes grounding to a halt and phones not working, fear and panic started to set in. People reacted irrationally and violently, everyone struggling and fighting to reach loved ones. The fear felt so real, jumping straight off the pages. Seeing the first effects of the biological warfare was also a little gross and added to the gripping tension.

I found it fascinating watching how the group changed from outside/before the bunker and when they were locked up indefinitely inside it. Cool, calm Marissa became scarily obsessive and slightly maniac after a few weeks underground, where as Icie worried about whether her parents would ever meet her at the mountain. I found Tate less annoying and came to like him. And interestingly Chaske remained very collected despite the huge potential for claustrophobia, paranoia and panic. I would certainly be freaking out if I was locked in a mountain bunker without knowing when I could leave. These changes in personality and behaviour were written really well, so that they were realistic to the character and situation and added emotional ups and downs and drama to the plot.

In terms of the end of the story, I did expect something more. There were shocking and emotional twists in the story that I hadn’t quite expected, but for some reason I wanted something bigger to happen at the end. Regardless of this I enjoyed the story, which was thought provoking, definitely different and gripping. If you’re looking for something unusual to read in the dystopian or post-apocalyptic genres then give Half Lives a go.

Isn't Hannah's review great?

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  1. I like 1st person narration better too. :-)

  2. I haven't heard of this one, but I am intrigued about the terrorist plotline. I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it.

    YA Sisterhood


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