Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials–engineered organic beings identical to humans–has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.
When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.
Before I write anything else, the first thought I want to get out of my system is this: Partials is the most amazing sci-fi novel I’ve read in a long time. Partials is the futuristic tale of a decimated America where the only surviving humans are gathered in what was once Long Island. In future America, a company called ParaGen created the Partials, human-like machines meant to be used as weapons. The Partials don’t age, have accelerated healing capabilities, possess super-human strength, and eventually turned on humans, waging a catastrophic war. Not only did this war kill thousands, but the disease the Partials set loose on humans — RM — has ensured the destruction of our species. As a result, the Senate created the Hope Act, mandating all girls age eighteen and up to become pregnant as often as possible in the hopes of finding a cure and repopulating the species. Viewing the Hope Act as an infringement on basic human rights, a faction of humans called the Voice split from society and is set on destroying the Senate, even at the cost of human lives.
Kira is a sixteen-year-old medic intern working in the maternity ward. The constant state of death leaves her heartbroken and desperate for answers. When Kira’s adopted sister becomes pregnant, Kira will do anything to save her future niece’s life. An idea begins to form as she finds a connection between the disease and the Partials. Along with a group of her closest friends, Kira embarks on a mission to find a cure, a mission that may just destroy what’s left of the world.
So that’s a lot to take in. And it’s definitely better to experience this world by diving into it than by reading my long-winded explanations. Part of this is because Wells provides the right amount of information at the right times. He gives away just enough that you understand what’s going on, but not enough for you to put down the book. The world is a lot to process at first, but it’s so interesting and elaborate. Wells builds an intricate world that draws you in from the very first page and holds you tightly in its grasp until the last page.
While the world-building and plots are top-notch, the characters are what first catch my attention. Kira’s main group of friends is diverse and each character is intelligent and thoughtful. We’re talking about characters that think before they speak, the debate, that consider real issues and point out flaws in each others’ ridiculous plans rather than racing off into battle. This is so rare in YA these days. Most characters operate under an “act now, think later” mindset, for some reason, and seem confused when this approach doesn’t turn out for the best. Kira, Marcus, Jayden, Xochi, Isolde, and Haru are intelligent. As a bonus, they’re all so different, their voices so strong. Not only does Marcus know how to make Kira laugh, but he consistently makes me laugh aloud. Xochi is an adopted sister I’d want on my side any day of the week and Isolde steps up in her own way when everyone needs her. Even Jayden, who seems cold at first, has numerous layers to his personality. Each character is incredibly well-developed, while one might expect their development to be left lacking in such an intricate story.
Perhaps the only flaw I can find with Partials is that it seems to drag in a couple parts, but even that’s not so bad. The beginning feels a little slow, but by the end, elements from the beginning come into play, proving that each scene is necessary. Everything Dan Wells includes, he includes for a reason. The scientific explanations behind RM are incredibly intricate, but for someone without much of a science background, I can definitely follow them. Not just follow — I find the explanations quite interesting. The twist in the ending jumped out and grabbed me from behind, leaving me thoroughly blindsided. While the end answers many of the questions that crop up from the beginning and throughout, it also introduces a ton of new questions that I’m desperate for answers to. I definitely recommend this book to almost anyone — it has a wide range of appeal — and I’m already looking forward to rereading it and discussing it with everyone I know. Well-written, fast-paced, thrillingly fresh, with a perfect blend of science, action, and humor — Partials has something for everyone.
Publication Date: February 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating [rating: 4.5]
Teaser Quote: “Kira felt a pang of conscience, as stark as if she’d willfully betrayed them all. What would they do if they knew what I really am?”