Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Dan Wells
Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins Publishers), February 2012
ISBN 978-0-06-207104-0

From the publisher—

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials–engineered organic beings identical to humans–has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what’s left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them–connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

One of the apparent requirements of young adult dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction is that the teen protagonist must be mature beyond her years and Kira is no exception to that “rule”. In this case, though, her maturity doesn’t seem so unnatural, perhaps because she is training to be a medic and that has forced her to see and deal with situations most teens wouldn’t be likely to encounter. Her medical knowledge has also led her to want to know more about the virus that is still killing humans and more about why the Partials had waged war with humans. It was easy for me to empathize with Kira’s fear of forced reproduction, especially when her closest friend becomes pregnant and there is no expectation the baby will survive.When she decides to capture a Partial in hopes of developing a cure for the virus, the resulting desperate, exciting action scenes are nerve-racking but believable.

The author does a nice job of letting the reader feel the tension when a foraging party goes outside the Long Island Defense Grid and it’s not surprising to find that most of the surviving humans don’t question the laws imposed by the Senate, no matter how restrictive they are. Throughout human existence, we’ve shown ourselves to be largely compliant with those who are in charge so why should things be any different in the year 2076? It’s not even surprising to learn that there is a small but active resistance movement known as the Voice. What isn’t very believable, though, is that a 16-year-old medic-in-training would be the one to decide she can find a cure and save humanity. Rebel against authority, yes. What teenager doesn’t? Save the world with just a small band of teen buddies? Maybe not so much.

IsolationDon’t get me wrong—I like Kira very much, as well as Marcus, Samm, Jayden, Madison, and all her other friends and I was especially happy that the author didn’t force a love triangle in this first book. It’s nice to be able to really get to know these central characters before the inevitable romantic entanglements take hold. If I have any complaint about the characters in Partials, it’s just that there are too many and I couldn’t really keep them all straight, much less care about them all. Perhaps the author will concentrate the story on fewer humans and Partials in the next book.

I am, indeed, looking forward to that next book. With the shocking twist that takes place in Partials, how could I not want to read Fragments? It’ll be coming out next spring and I’ll be in line when it does. In the meantime, I’m eagerly anticipating Isolation, an ebook novella Mr. Wells will be releasing this fall. That’ll just have to tide me over till next winter.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2012.