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…
And here is Amanda's review:
Vampires are not my favorite flavor of supernatural creature. Why so many authors insist on making them obscenely attractive and broodingly dangerous is beyond me. Which is why the sarcastic references to The Vampire Diaries and Twilight in Emily McKay’s The Farm were greatly appreciated.
In the Before, life was normal. Twins Lily and Mel went to high school, and Lily hung out with her geek-girl friends and silently despaired of having an AP biology teacher who would actually be qualified to teach the class. Mel…well, Mel got along as best she could. Her autism made her a target, and it was Lily’s job to protect her.
Then a CDC experiment went awry, and they both ended up on The Farm, giving blood donations to keep the local Tick population happy, and plotting to find a way off the Farm and across the country to Canada and safety.
The Ticks are monsters. Blood-drinking monsters. At first I thought Tick was just a funny name for vampires, but it turns out they’ve got more in common with the creatures of the movie 28 Days Later than actual vampires. They’re bitten, they’re still alive, and they turn into mindless, speeding beasts who have only the basest of instincts and survive solely on drinking blood, preferably drunk straight from a human heart. Oh, yeah, the descriptions? Not for the squeamish.
So the Ticks have decimated most of the US population, and the remaining teenagers are used as food, housed in Farms. The few adults to escape the plague are either in charge of the Farms or have fled to anywhere they can get outside the US. The Canadian border, once the longest, unprotected border in the world, is now closed and patrolled, and it’s because of this Lily believes their freedom lies in the land of maple syrup and hockey.
Lily is everything I love in a heroine. She’s strong, intelligent, and snarky to a fault. She gets into trouble and she gets herself out of it, and when she can’t, she’s upset she had to wait for someone, usually a guy, to rescue her. After having spent so much of the last few months looking out for Mel’s well-being, she’s forgotten there are some situations where she’d be overpowered, and it doesn’t sit well with her.
The narrative switches between Lily, Mel, and Carter. Told primarily from Lily’s point of view, Mel’s chapters were fascinating. She’s some kind of music savant and views the world’s sounds as orchestrations horribly out of tune with one another. Because of her disorder, she’s unable to communicate her thoughts clearly, but she can tell long before Lily can there’s a problem with their escape plan. The clash of notes she hears is how she determines there’s missing information, or that things are out of sync. The chapters were brief and twisted, and I loved them. They were perfectly interspersed amongst the other chapters told from Lily and Carter’s points of view.
Carter…what to say about Carter. Carter’s kind of your stereotypical high school bad boy. Attractive, charming, insanely popular, always getting into trouble. Lily’s had a crush on him since the moment he walked into her science class over two years ago, but after months on the Farm, she doesn’t trust anyone. Especially not Carter, not after he just randomly shows up. I had a hard time getting into his head, even with the chapters told from his perspective. Because of the secrecy surrounding his agenda for finding Lily, I had a difficult time believing him when he claimed to be telling the truth. Just like Lily!
I love my books dark (the darker, the better) and The Farm was dark without going full-on emo depressing. The teen angst was limited, mostly because whatever romantic connection Lily may have been able to forge with Carter had to be shunted aside as the situation they’re in becomes more and more dire. The focus is on staying alive, not on falling in love, and I was glad. The one problem I had with the book was Carter’s partner in crime, and it was almost a big enough problem for me to downgrade this book to a B+. But the originality, action, and our intrepid protagonist bumped it up to a solid A-.