To Be Published February 25, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: ARC, obtained from the publisher
Genre: young adult sci-fi/fantasy
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
Rating: 5 STARS
(From Goodreads) Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.
Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.
The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?
I've heard Fire & Flood described as a cross between The Hunger Games and Survivor. I, personally, feel like that's putting this incredible book in too small of a box. Certainly, there are elements of the best-selling book and the popular TV show in this story about a girl who enters an extreme race in order to save her brother's life. But, Victoria Scott has infused her unique style and some truly unique elements which make Fire & Flood something truly special.
Tella's brother is dying. There's not much hope when she receives a blue box with an earpiece that invites her to be a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. If she wins, her brother will live. Despite the fact that the mall is her temple and she never leaves home without her mascara, Tella sets out for parts unknown, determined to do what she has to. Along the way, she makes friends and enemies and experiences things that will change her forever.
Victoria Scott has an incredible ability to create complex and compelling characters, both main characters and the ones on the periphery. Tella is the main character, and the enigmatic Guy becomes the object of her affection. Harper, Caroline, Ransom, Titus - all of the members of Tella's gang in the race have distinct personalities, and I loved discovering more about them as the book went on. Tella is an amazing character. On the surface, she seems superficial and certainly not cut out for spending two weeks in the rain forest. But, it doesn't take long for her drive and determination to override the lack of flush toilets. She truly loves her brother and will put other things aside for him.
My dad didn't think I could do this... But, maybe he doesn't know his little girl as well as he'd like to believe. Because when it comes to doing something for my family, I'm not just his daughter. I am strong. I will be strong for my brother.
The Brimstone Bleed seems to amplify personality traits that they usually keep buried. Harper is confident, so in the Bleed, she easily becomes the leader. Titus was probably a bully in real life. In the Bleed, be becomes an outright villain. Guy was probably always the strong, silent type. In the Bleed, he was incredible, capable and mysterious.
In a race where there can only be one winner, Tella is unusually compassionate. In the beginning, she came off as superficial and materialistic. Until she got around her brother - then, she softened and seemed willing to do whatever he wanted of her. That softness really came out when she had no choice but to put aside her "stuff" and fight to survive. She was quick to form bonds with other Contenders. She also has a particularly soft spot for the Pandoras.
Ah yes - the Pandoras. This is easily my favorite part of Fire & Flood. Each Contender starts the race with an egg. The egg hatches and the animal that comes out is genetically enhanced in unique ways to assist the Contender with winning the race. These animals are amazing. There's a lion who breaths fire, a raccoon that can produce spikes and a cheetah who can produce night lights from its eyes. But, Tella's Pandora, who she names Madox, is the most amazing of them all with some surprising abilities that make him coveted by all the other Contenders.
These Pandoras are one of the most unique things I've seen in a book in a very long time. Let's face it - most plot devices have been done before. Many times over. I have NEVER seen anything like the Pandoras before. Bravo, Victoria Scott - you have one wicked creative mind.
All the characters in Fire & Flood were so colorful and incredible. But, Guy - holy smokes was he cool. He wasn't drop dead gorgeous like so many boys in books. But, he had a quiet strength that more than made up for it. And, the way he cared for Tella - even from the very first moment they saw each other - was endearing. The romance between them was slow to develop, but it was perfect for the story.
I feel like I could go on and on about all the things I loved about this book. Bottom line, this is a fantastic page-turner full of amazing characters and a uniqueness that you don't even realize you're craving. Do yourself a favor and read it as soon as you can.