Shock (Virals #0.5), by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs

Four stars (of five)

The Reichs twosome offer up a great short story prequel to the Virals collection, a month ahead of the series finale. As Tory Brennan arrives in South Carolina, she is not sure what to expect; humid conditions, a father she’s never met, and isolated from the life she’s known. By the time Kit arrives to pick her up, Brennan’s tired and totally unsure what the future holds, still trying to come to grips with her mother’s death. Things begin awkwardly as Kit makes his first impression, which only gets worse as Tory discovers her new environs are nothing like Massachusetts. Exploring Morris Island, she stumbles upon a threesome of young boys who will become her Virals compatriots in the coming months. As Brennan and the boys grow closer, no one is fuy aware how important this group will be and how young adult readers will latch onto their every move. A great teaser to lighten the blow of the impeding end of the VIRALS series.

Backtracking on a well-established series can be a gamble for any author, especially those who write for the fickle young adult reader. Reichs succeed masterfully, laying some previously unknown storylines as they relate to Tory and the rest of the Virals crew. Even in this short story, the characters develop nicely and the setting suits the larger series well. This story fits nicely into the larger series and could easily have been added to the early part of the first book, effortlessly. Brennan makes her off-beat impression in the opening paragraphs, as she has through the entire collection. A perfect way to hold off antsy readers who want to see how Reichs and Reichs terminate the Virals, and what form that might take.

Kudos, Mr. and Madam Reichs. What a great treat you’ve served up ahead of closing the proverbial book on the VIRALS.