Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen

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CountdownCountdown by Michelle Rowen (Harlequin Teen, 2013)

Kira Jordan awakens in a pitch-black room, chained to a wall, with no idea how she got there. She soon realizes the room’s other occupant is Rogan Ellis, convicted murderer, and that he holds the key—literally—to her survival.

Kira soon discovers that she and Rogan have been thrust into a world of underground entertainment—it’s like Survivor on steroids, a brutal series of challenges where contestants have no choice but fight to the death. Theirs is a society where the very wealthy, the Subscribers, are willing to pay for brain implants so they can access “the Network” and watch programming such as Countdown. Kira, who has lived on the streets since the brutal murder of her parents and her sister, is stronger than she thinks, and she soon realizes the benefits of having Rogan on her side outweigh the risks of teaming up with a murderer.

At first the story moves at a breakneck pace, setting aside world-building and characterization for the sake of building tension and suspense. Information about Kira, Rogan, and Countdown and who’s behind it is given out slowly and only when necessary. This works well for the first three-quarters of the book. It’s a thrill ride, and I couldn’t put the book down because I needed to know what happened to Kira and Rogan. But then the story seems to lose its way. Rather than focusing on their own survival, Kira and Rogan suddenly become pawns in a game of industrial espionage, and the action slows almost to a halt. The characters whose survival has depended on quick thinking and immediate action suddenly start agonizing over every decision, hesitating before they do anything, and because there’s been no narrative preparation for such a drastic change, the introspection and need for approval from each other comes across as forced.

There’s a lot going on in Countdown—it’s a dystopian society where a plague has wiped out much of the population but somehow has allowed for the development of psi abilities in some girls, and there’s this forbidden world of ultra-violent “entertainment”—and unfortunately there’s just enough of that to be fun, but not quite enough to make for a complex, compelling read. This is a perfect airport thriller: fun and quick to read, but doesn’t really stay with you once you’ve finished.

This book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 3 stars

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