The Farm by Emily McKay
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 420 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Release date: December 4, 2012
Series: The Farm #1
Reviewed by: Helen
Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…
And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.
Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…
Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...
Very few books have ever freaked me out quite as much as The Farm did. To give you a mental picture – the country has been taken over by vampire-like mutants called Ticks. When things got really bad, the public was tricked into sending their children to secure Farms, where they could be protected until the Ticks were under control. Instead, the Ticks have taken over everything, including the Farms, and now require regular blood donations from each teenager, and often kill those who have aged out of the Farms. The only escape from being fed on is to become a Breeder – to purposefully get pregnant because the Ticks don’t like the taste of pregnancy hormones in the blood. Breeders are looked upon as the lowest of the low – because they are essentially trading a baby for a few months of solace from the Ticks. Who knows what will happen to their babies when they are born? I consider myself fairly used to vampire novels and movies – but the creatures in The Farm seriously gave me the creeps.
The story follows Lily and Mel, twin sisters. Mel is severely autistic, and Lily is the only one left to take care of her. She’s determined to get her sister out and to try to find somewhere that the Ticks have not yet destroyed. The story is told in a few alternating voices, though the vast majority is from Lily’s point of view. We do get a few glimpses into Mel’s thinking, which were some of my absolute favorite parts. The way she viewed herself and everyone around her was absolutely mesmerizing. She often talked about how everyone has music to them, and only she could hear it. It would have been so easy for the author to cast Mel as a one-dimensional autistic girl, but instead she was given such depth and importance in the story.
“Places have music too. Home always sounded like Beethoven’s Ninth. School, like skate punk. Only holy ground is quiet. Completely at peace. I wonder if that’s why the Ticks avoid it. Do they hear its silence, too? Are they drawn to it, like I am, or repelled? If they can hear its silence, then what does that make me?”
Lily’s struggle to find a way to get Mel and herself off the Farm and away from the Ticks was incredible. Along the way she’s told she has immeasurable importance in the battle against the Ticks, and she struggles with whether she can truly believe that about herself. And whether she can truly believe what Carter is telling her about his feelings for her.
Though incredibly dark for the most part, this book also had a few exchanges that had me giggling out loud. There was a great blend of humor as well as tension that kept me going and never quite knowing what to expect next.
“’Roberto?’ I said again.
Carter’s mouth flattened in annoyance. “Yes, Roberto.”
“So there’s an evil vampire trying to take over the world…”
“And his name is Bob?”
The only flaw with this book was the way that the ‘big twist’ was unveiled at the end. I saw it coming about half-way into the book, but still figured I’d give it a shot in case I was wrong. And though I had guessed right, instead of a great, heart-pumping unveiling, it was more just sort of dropped in the reader’s lap. Which is okay, but not my favorite way to engage with a story. Even at that, The Farm was never short on action or tension, and it kept me glued to every page until the very last one. It ended way too soon in my opinion, and I cannot wait until the second book in this series comes out this fall!