Sometimes, I dream that I'm someone else.
A girl with dark hair who doesn't worry about hunger
or thirst or running from flesh-eaters.
In her world, those sorts of things don't exist.
Since the spring of 2036, when the world changed forever, Claudia and a small clan of survivors have roamed the streets of a very altered Nashville: polluted and desolate, except for the ever-present threat of cannibal Hoarders. Together they must undergo punishing tests of endurance and psychological challenge sometimes with devastating consequences all just to live another day.
With food and water in dwindling supply, and with danger lurking around every corner, no one can be trusted. And as her world starts to make less and less sense, Claudia begins to realize something terrifying: she is just a pawn in some sort of game, and all of her actions are being controlled from afar by a mysterious gamer. So when she meets a maddening and fascinating outsider named Declan, who claims to be a game moderator, she must decide whether to join him in exchange for protection and access to the border.
If they play the game right, they are each other's best hope for survival and a life beyond the only world Claudia's ever known: the terrifying live-action game known as The Aftermath.
I haven't been a gamer in a very long time, not since I was totally immersed and addicted to the Resident Evil series before moving to Florida in 2000. I could easily play that game 12 hours a day, and not care about anything else as long as I was killing off zombies and powering up new weapons to destroy them with.
But, that didn't stop me from requesting and reading Push by Eve Silver, or The Aftermath by Jen Alexander. The Aftermath is set in a far off time where America went through civil wars and rebellions by several states. In response, those in charge designed ways to prevent future violence from causing even more problems. This included allowing those with the so called Warrior gene to play a virtual reality game where you control an actual human player and earn your rehabilitation. Coincidentally, Rush has the same idea where players must gain points by completing missions in order to get out of the game and back to their own lives.
16-year old Claudia "Virtue" is the stories main character, and it is her story to tell. She runs missions in the destroyed city of Nashville, Tennessee where food and water is in short supply. She's been playing The Aftermath for 3 long years but has no memories of the time before, or why she ended up here in the first place. She also her own clan (Ethan, April, and Jeremy) that work together to complete mandatory and side missions that earn points based on the importance of the mission.
It is not until she is injured on a mission that she realizes that she's been a player in a virtual reality game the entire time. Understanding that she has had absolutely no control over her actions, comes as more than a shock. Once she starts putting the pieces together, the puzzle becomes even more clearer with the arrival of Declan Hastings who somehow manages to find his way into the game.
This book reminded me an awful lot of Rush by Eve Silver, yet there are some differences that set each series apart. Rush is set to a background that includes aliens, while The Aftermath is about humans having the ability to control other humans. In Rush, the players could return to their own times, while the characters in the Aftermath are nothing but pawns in a dangerous game and there's only one way out; earn enough points.
I made my self a list of questions I wanted answered: Why is Claudia so important? Who is Declan Hastings really, and what does he want from Claudia? What happens when a person actually reaches the mandatory points? Why doesn't Claudia remember the time before she entered the game? Who is Claudia's controller, and why do they have a connection?
I'm pleased to say that all but 2 of my questions went unanswered which is surprising in itself. I am not one who likes to have my questions go unanswered even if it is the first book in a series. The ending to The Aftermath is just brutal, and I'm still not sure I trust any of the characters, including Claudia's own memories.
The Aftermath is presumably the first in a new series because I can not phantom how any author in their right mind would stop after the ending that Alexander leaves for us. Unfortunately, I can't find any further information about this series from the authors web page. I suppose we can presume that there will be another book in the near future. It's better than assuming!
Author - Jen Alexander
Title - The Aftermath
Published by Harlequin Teen
Released - August 26, 2014
Genre - Young Adult, Dystopian
Format - E-book 288 pages