Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Farm by Emily McKay

The Farm
by Emily McKay
December 4, 2012
Berkley Trade
420 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tours


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... (Goodreads Summary)

Opening Line

Some days you just want to let the bad guys win.

My Take On It

I recently reviewed one of my favorite vampire books, Sunshine by Robin McKinley (read my review HERE). One of the things I love most about that book is that the vampires in it aren't the sparkly, vegetarian variety. They are cold, calculating, ruthless, and damn scary.  They aren't to be trusted. Yet sometimes it can be a very good thing to have a vampire on your side. Well The Farm is another book that features old school vampires, the dark and dangerous kind, the kind that I love. When I first read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. And I was not disappointed. The Farm is a great piece of post apocalyptic/ science fiction, vampire horror. 

Lily and Mel are twin sisters who have been living the last 6 months of their lives at "The Farm", one of many interment camps set up to protect teenagers since a genetic microbe was accidentally released on the U.S. population resulting in some 2% morphing into bloodthirsty homicidal monsters known as Ticks. 

Teenagers are very susceptible because of the hormones they produce. Camps were set up by the government as a way to protect them. Then the government collapsed and it turns out that the real reason teens are being held is to collect their blood. Like Julie Kagawa's The Immortal Rules,  humans have become cattle. Corralled together and bled to feed the monsters living outside the compound's walls. There are ways around donating. One is to get pregnant, because the Ticks may love teenage hormones but they can't stand the hormones females produce when pregnant. Another is to turn collaborator, and pledge assistance to help keep all the teens in line. Collabs are basically henchman who are fed a diet of progesterone (the same hormone pregnant women produce) in exchange for doing all the dirty work for the Dean, who oversees the Farm. 

Lily and Mel are just a week away from their 18th birthday, the date when "protection" at the Farm ends. Officials tell the kids that they can leave safely, but Lily believes that turning 18 is really a death sentence. Once you take that trip to the Dean's office for your walking papers, no one ever sees you again. 

The overall mood and tone of The Farm is dark and tense. The entire book leaves you on the edge of your seat, always wondering, dreading, what is going to happen next. The first half of the book moves a bit slow as Lily and Mel ready their escape. But once they leave the Farm behind, the action and suspense is non stop. The book kind of had a Red Dawn-ish feel to it. Armed kids on the run against an enemy that has overtaken the country.  And this book is a little graphic. It's definitely got some horror elements to it. Nothing too terrible, but there is some blood and gore. 

The Farm is told from multiple POV's, those of Lily, her autistic twin sister Mel, and Carter, a boy from their past who turns up at the Farm. Lily is the primary narrator and she is a pretty awesome character. Lily's only concern is getting her and her sister, who she feels solely responsible for, off the Farm. She's smart, loyal, brave, and trusts no one. She is also VERY stubborn and judgemental. Burn Lily once and she won't ever forget. In other words, she's a flawed character but one with her heart in the right place. So it was easy for me to sympathize with her and cheer her on but at the same time want to shake her senseless for the way she sometimes acted.

Perhaps the most interesting, and unfortunately briefest, of the narratives was Mel, Lily's autistic twin.  I am no expert on autism and I have no real personal experience, but I was fascinated with Mel's voice. First off she tends to speak in a broken English interspersed with classic nursery rhymes which was very creepy in itself. But much of her narrative was like deciphering a riddle or reading strange poetry. It was beautiful and eerie and unlike anything I have read before. I really loved her parts in the story and I wish there would have been more. 

The last POV was that of Carter. Before I talk about him I have to mention that while Mel and Lily's narrative are first person, Carter's is written in third person. It actually took me a little while to realize this. I'm not really sure why Carter isn't first person, maybe because of the three, Carter is the most unreliable narrator. For much of the story Lily and Mel aren't really sure whether he is being honest with them or not and what his real motivations are. Maybe the author thought writing him in third person POV would keep him more mysterious?  It was a bit odd but didn't distract me much. 

I like Carter, he definitely has the whole bad boy/ player thing going for him but he is also pretty selfless and brave. The romance between he and Lily was the slow building kind and even though McKay is, according to Goodreads, a successful romance novelist, The Farm is very PG. Some of my favorite parts of the book were the banter between Lily and Carter. And I loved watching Lily learn to trust him, even when her natural survival instinct makes her suspicious of him, and everyone, at the same time. 

So in addition to the Ticks, there also regular vampires. It seems funny writing that, but what I mean is there are also the vampires that we all know and recognize.  The difference between the two is that Ticks are human's transformed into monsters after coming in contact with a pathogen. Ticks are more like animals, they hunt in packs and aren't very bright. Vampires, on the other hand, are very smart and cunning, and have actually been around forever. Now that the Ticks have overrun the U.S.,vampires have (sort of) come out as well. They are self serving, pretty short tempered, occasionally violent ( read: deadly), and very territorial. And  they might play a bigger role than expected in regards to the whole Tick infestation. 

I love vampires, always have, so it should come as no great surprise that the vampire we meet in The Farm is one of my favorite characters. His dry sense of humor was awesome and like the rest of the characters I never knew if he was friend or foe. Definitely intriguing and well written. I'm leaving the vampire's name out intentionally, by the way. 

In fact there is a quite a bit to the plot that I don't want to get into because I'm afraid of spoiling it. Let's just say that there are plenty of twists and turns. In addition to the whole sci fi aspect mentioned above, there are supernatural/ paranormal elements as well. There is a lot to this story, and escaping The Farm is only a small part of it. I have seen some reviews that say that this book is a standalone, but Goodread's has it listed as the first in a series (The Farm #1). It feels like the first book in a series. A lot of information is thrown out there that feels like a set up for future books. And, again without spoiling, the book ends on a very shocking note. There are some things revealed that I saw coming but a REALLY BIG thing right at the end that I definitely DIDN'T. And I sincerely hope that McKay is not going to leave me hanging because dude! That ending (and especially the final chapter/ epilogue) was a total jaw dropper that had me jonesing for more. If you aren't a fan of cliffhanger endings you might not like how The Farm ends, but I personally thought it was pretty darn cool. 

In summation, I really enjoyed The Farm. It was a very unique take on vampires as well as the post apocalyptic genre. I loved the science fiction parts of it and the suspense found throughout it. But I really enjoyed the characters the most.  I loved flawed yet heroic Lily and Carter and the strangely beautiful voice of Mel. And I loved the scary vampires too. I sincerely hope that author Emily McKay will continue this story because I would love to learn more. The Farm releases December 4th so be sure to pick it up and let me know what you think!

4.25/5 Stars

Read more reviews of The Farm:
Reader of Fictions
The Reading Fever
Once Upon a Twilight
The Diary of a Bookworm


  1. This sounds really good, in fact I should be receiving a copy for review soon. and I'm really excited to read it now! :)

  2. Woah, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I feel like it isn't for me, but perhaps I'll have to re-think that since your review has definitely convinced me to look into it. Wonderful review, Heather! :D

    1. Thanks, Keertana:) I did enjoy this, it felt old school with some cool sci fi and horror undertones:)

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  4. Well hello creepy, darky, gritty tale *wipes drool from chin* This is going on my Christmas wish list for Moi!

    1. YES! LOVE those creepy, dark, gritty, tense tales too! Great minds, Kimba....:)

  5. Wonderful review! I actually haven't heard of this book, but I'm fascinated. I haven't read The Immortal Rules either, but it kind of makes sense - disturbingly - that vampires would want to corral the humans together and have an easy source of blood. And that sounds so scary the limited options that teens have of not being used as blood banks. Definitely sounds like a legit post-apocalyptic read to me. I also don't know much about autism, although I have read some other books with parts narrated by characters with mental disabilities and it is interesting to read about for sure. I will need to look further into this book!

    1. I think I liked this one more than The Immortal Rules (I like J. Kagawa but lately she has been hit or miss for me.) I think this is only the second book I have read with an autistic character so I don't have much to compare to, but I REALLY loved Mel's voice. It had a dreamy, child-like quality to it that was just awesome to read:)

  6. I can tell that this one is too scary for me just by the fact that I had to squint my eyes up to read the review.
    But I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Like you, I'm finding that I much prefer old school vampires to the namby pamby romance ones. The Ticks were so creepy, and much more what I want them to be.

    Mel's perspective was utterly delightful and I really hope her sections are longer in the next book, because they were so lyrical and delightful. Haha, I think I also commented on how weird it was for Carter to be in third person. I really don't like the blend in third and first person narratives in books.

    Oh, Emily McKay commented on my review a while back, and I know there's going to be at least one more book.

    1. YES! Old school vampires ROCK. Love the monsterous Ticks but I equally loved the traditional vamp in The Farm too. Who might actually be MORE scary because you never know when he is going to snap, you know? Good stuff all around!

      Yes, the switching of perspectives was odd, and it did take me a couple of chapters before I figured WHY Carter's parts seemed so different.

      WOOT! I am so excited to hear confirmation of another book, because that ending left me all slack jawed and I MUST find out what happens next. ESPECIALLY after that insane ending and epilogue.

  8. I'm so glad that you reviewed this one, Heather. It's one of a very few books that made their way onto my December releases to pay attention to list. I picked up a copy at BEA, but of course it's just been languishing in a pile since. I really like that this is the real scary kind of vampires, and I also really like the differences between Ticks and Vampires. This was much more appealing to me than Julie Kagawa's book (partially because I just really don't like her work), and I'm hoping it'll be a win for me as well!

    1. Yeah, my pile of languishing books grows ever larger. It's becoming a problem... I think you would like this one Heidi, it's very tense and full of suspense and there are plenty of moments of wondering who is going to bite it next. I liked it better than The Immortal Rules for sure.

  9. Huh, I hadn't heard of this one at all. I'm not usually a fan of multiple POVs but this sounds really interesting. I'm especially keen to read the POVs from Mel's autistic sister and from the vampire, which comes later. I really did not like the Forest of Hands and Teeth and I think I've been wary of any books where people are kept separate from vampires in fenced areas ever since. I think I'll eventually read this one, though. Thanks for reviewing it.

    1. Mel's pov was hands down, my favorite. The vampire does not narrate but I am hopes that might change in the sequel! I wasn't so crazy about The Forest of Hands and Teeth either. I hope you give this a try and enjoy it as much as I:)


    However, that cliffhanger...

    Instead of list out all of the things I am excited about, I'm just gonna say that while I want to read this so much, so much, so much - I may just have to wait. Doggone it. (I may end up caving on this one, though, because I can barely resist a vampire.) I mean, it really does look fabulous.

    1. Yeah, I definitely think you'd like this one, Asheley. And Christina said in her comment that the author has confirmed there will be at least one more book! I don't know that I would say it ends on a traditional cliffhanger so much as it ends on a very SHOCKING note (at least to me.) If that makes since:)

  11. I really, really want to read this book!!!! I'm not big on vampires, but this book just sounds too good to be missed!! And your review just makes me want to read it that much more =D x

  12. This is definitely on my Christmas list- I don't think I've seen a single negative review. Sooo excited to read it, and thanks so much for the review!


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