Heartbreaking, taut, and dangerous, Contaminated pulls at the heartstrings. Seasoned author Em Garner ventures into YA lit with this her compelling debut YA title, but she is here to stay.

The world has changed after the outbreak of the Contamination. Millions were affected by a trendy diet drink craze. ThinPro, the drink of choice, was guzzled not only by those trying to lose weight, but movie stars and celebs were photographed with the popular drink, and that made it go "viral" (pun intended). No one knew that the company couldn't keep up with demand and had to substitute some ingredients.

Suddenly, normal, nice people morphed into violent, raging maniacs. Because of the popularity of cult movies and How-To Survive Zombie Attacks books, the non-infected begin to kill the Contaminated. The government caught Connies and put them in hospitals and treated some of them with lobotomies. Others were kept in filthy, crowded kennels.

Velvet Ellis has been searching for her mother for months. Her mom was captured, but Velvet doesn't give up hope in finding her. Velvet has been both mother and father to little sister Opal since her parents disappeared. She balances school, a part-time job at a nursing home, caring for her sister and their government subsidized apartment, and looking for her mother. When Velvet finds her mother, she fills out the paperwork to bring her home.

Scientists have discoverd that fitting the Connies with a shock collar controls their behavior. It is the only way Velvet's mother is allowed out. Not everyone is happy about the release of the Contaminated. They are shunned everywhere and people are still afraid of them. Velvet's family is forced from their apartment and she loses her job. How will they survive without a home? What will they do for money?

Velvet has to figure out how to survive. She is now responsible for her mother who needs help feeding herself and dressing herself. After a day or two, her mother seems to know her daughters; she seems to be responding. Could her condition be reversed?

Contaminated is a tear-jerker in the best way. It is heartbreaking and sad, but it is hopeful, too. I loved this book! It is dystopian in the best way; the events are completely beieveable. The grid is not so broken that it is non-existent. There is still a government although it has enforced Martial Law. There is still running water and electricity. Cars can still be filled up with gas although it is exhorbitantly priced. Only the rich can afford cars. Grocery stores are still stocked with food, but again, it is pricey. Only the rich can afford to be well fed.

Contaminated is the real deal--the ultimate page-turner. Velvet is an authentic voice, the story is flawlessly told and crafted, and readers will be deeply satisfied. I could not put this book down. Believe me, teens will lose sleep over this one...reading it, that is!

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. No language.

Recommended by:  Pamela Thompson, MLIS, Librarian, Texas USA

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Velvet Ellis lives in a different world as a teen than she did as a child.  There is no time for play, and very little time for school.  Velvet wishes she could have her old life back at home with her parents making all of the decisions, but that life is over.  It's more about survival now... The contaminated are now called Connies, raging mind-numbing people who barely resemble their former selves.  They're raging creatures, stumbling slowly toward the next victim regardless of who it could hurt them. Velvet has never given up trying to find her mother.  Every week she goes to the kennel to try and find her among the fetid, contaminated cages of people waiting to be found. It's time to take her home.

Recommended by:  Naomi Bates, Librarian, Texas USA

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