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Contaminated 2: Mercy Mode

Review

Contaminated 2: Mercy Mode

CONTAMINATED and CONTAMINATED 2: Mercy Mode are definitely not the zombie stories you’ve grown used to in recent years. The virus in these stories has been replaced by contaminated batches of a diet drink that, rather than killing the drinkers, turns them into aggressive living “zombies” called Connies. In CONTAMINATED, teenager Velvet searches for and finds her contaminated mother and takes her electric collar off, allowing her to live as normally as possible so they can go home with Velvet’s younger sister and boyfriend.

CONTAMINATED 2: Mercy Mode finds Velvet and her family hiding out in her childhood home and risking trips into town for rations, despite Velvet’s fear that she will be singled out and tested. With supplies dwindling and soldiers stationed at nearly every turn, the tension in town is high, a fact made all the more chilling by Garner’s careful attention to detail. Meanwhile, an underground radio announcer warns listeners that anyone can be taken away, contaminated or not. It seems as though there is much more going on than the government is admitting, especially since it has been years since the first outbreak.  At home, however, Velvet’s mother, Malinda, shows signs of improvement: washing, dressing and even expressing herself, marking a clear distinction from reports of Connies acting out even after they have been lobotomized and collared.

The highlight of CONTAMINATED 2 is Velvet’s character development, which makes it a zombie story any teen can relate to.

When Velvet and her family are forced out of their home by a fire and captured by soldiers, Velvet wakes up in a testing facility where she is starved and tested daily for speed and agility. She learns that she is contaminated and has been affected differently because of her parents' genes. Now she is the Sanitarium’s star patient, as her unique response may hold the key to healing the contaminated. But the facility’s methods are unethical, to say the least, and Velvet can only focus on finding her family, prompting a wild escape that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the book’s satisfying-but-not-too-perfect conclusion.

The highlight of CONTAMINATED 2 is Velvet’s character development, which makes it a zombie story any teen can relate to. Hardened by her life post-Contamination, she is no stranger to violence, but holds back when she sees she has crossed the line. Although she has matured since the start of the outbreak, she maintains just enough of her teenage awkwardness to make her likeable and believable. The only weakness of CONTAMINATED 2 is that the main drama of the novel --- Velvet’s capture and imprisonment --- takes too long to occur and, as a result, feels a bit rushed when it finally happens. This is not to say that the first half of the novel is boring, for even Velvet’s home life is colored by fear and suspense, but I found myself wanting more action from the sequel.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on August 5, 2014

Contaminated 2: Mercy Mode
by Em Garner