Summary: Living on the streets after her whole family is killed by a house robber, Kira uses her wits to survive. But when she wakes up in a strange place with a stranger named Rogan chained to a wall and finds out she is a contestant in an underground, televised game, the rules of life have changed and she and Rogan must get through six levels to win or die trying. Told her companion Rogan is a mass murderer and given difficult and violent tasks to complete, Kira must separate the lies from the truth in order to save both their lives. Seeking to beat the game and find a way to shut it down for the future, Kira and Rogan bond over their circumstances, quickly learning they are the only people they can trust.
Number of Pages: 336
Age Range: 15-17
Review: If The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Running Man by Stephen King had a love child, Countdown by Michelle Rowen would be it. But it’s a bit of a which came first situation, because Michelle Rowen’s first draft of Countdown was actually an adult book published under the pen name Michelle Maddox the same year the first book of The Hunger Games came out, 2008.
I enjoyed it as a fast-paced, action-packed read, although it contained more violence than I am used to. But I loved that Rowen was able to hook me with her ideas of a dystopia world thrown into disarray after a particularly virulent plague takes out much of the population. Something about the plague alters human DNA, and as a result some people are born with telekinetic and PSi powers. Technology has evolved, but as an underground enterprise that only the rich can afford. There are lots of plot twists to Rowen’s story, not all of which I saw coming.
It totally worked as a teen fiction novel, and is sure to interest reluctant readers.
“My breath hitched. could I fight him to escape from this place? If I had to? ‘I don’t belong here.’
‘None of us belong here, Kira,’ he said wearily. ‘Sometimes we need to do the best with what we’re given.'” – Conversation between Kira and Jonathan from Countdown by Michelle Rowen
“‘So you’re going to follow him and then what?’
‘And then I’m going to kill him.’ He raised an eyebrow. ‘But then again, I am a sick murdering bastard, right?’
‘So it’s that simple for you?’
His fists clenched at his sides.
‘You’re acting as if I have a choice.’
‘There’s always a choice.’ – Conversation between Kira and Rogan from Countdown by Michelle Rowen
“My jaw clenched. ‘I don’t think you’re anything like that.’
‘How can you say that after what I just told you?’
I exhaled. ‘What you told me? That you were a self-involved stoner rich kid who was bored and helped create a dumb game that other self-involved people thought was cool? That might make you an asshole, but it doesn’t make you a monster.'” – Conversation between Kira and Rogan from Countdown by Michelle Rowen
“Another blindfold. More darkness.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but, unfortunately phobias don’t work that way. You don’t simply get used to what you fear. It gets worse and worse and harder to deal with every single time. Even if you tell yourself it’s irrational to be afraid.” – Kira from Countdown by Michelle Rowen