Contagion, by Erin Bowman, is a 2019 Edgar Award nominee for Best Young Adult Mystery. When it made its way to the top of my To Be Read pile and I read the jacket copy, I was excited to start. I could hardly put it down before I finished.
From Erin’s website:
IT GOT IN US
After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
MOST ARE DEAD
But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.
DON’T SET FOOT HERE AGAIN
As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.
Without giving too much away, Contagion was like a cross between Alien and a zombie movie, told from multiple POVs. The synopsis above doesn’t mention any of the characters or their backstories, which is unusual for a Young Adult book. It’s obviously a wise marketing choice. The plot description — and those eerie lines in ALL CAPS — got me to pick up the book and start reading. But don’t be fooled – this story is driven as much by the characters and their motivations as it is by the plot.
Contagion offers a lot of mystery and intrigue, using the multiple POVs to show the many characters withholding secrets from each other. This structure helps build tension and suspense, when the reader knows more than the narrator.
Contagion’s plot took some unexpected and interesting turns. These, I’m sure, are part of what helped it earn an Edgar Award nomination.
I typically dislike cliffhanger endings, and Contagion’s story ends with a strong enough resolution that it works as a standalone. But there’s a line at the very end that is very intriguing that made me immediately pick up the sequel to keep reading (my review of Immunity is coming next week).