The Hunger Games is still huge, two years after the trilogy reached completion. So it’s no surprise that dystopian fiction is all the rage in the young adult market, with a number of strong contenders for readers’ interests. Dan Well’s Partials series is one such, of which Fragments is the second installment.
In the late twenty-first century, the world is nigh unrecognizable. A war with genetically engineered soldiers, termed “Partials,” devastated the human race at the same time a virulent new plague, RM, ravaged the population. 35,000 humans now live on Long Island; as far as they know, they are the only humans left on Earth. To make matters worse, the survivors are all still carrying the deadly virus, which has killed every single infant born for over a decade. Kira Walker was only five when the old world fell apart, and she’s dedicated her training since to finding a cure for RM. The answer lies with the Partials, who are now facing their own extinction due to a built-in expiration date. It’s up to Kira to figure out how these two problems fit together and, at the same time, answer a growing list of questions about her own origins.
The stakes are high
In Partials, it was clear from the beginning that humanity was in dire straights. However, the stand-off with the Partials on the mainland of North America is concluded, the Partial Dr. Morgan tearing apart Long Island in search of Kira, hoping that Kira’s genetic oddities may solve the Partials from extinction. This has exacerbated the problems of human and Partials not being able to live without each other, but not being able to live with each either. However, Kira isn’t on Long Island, having left on a quest for answers in the ruins of the world that was. Instead, it is her old friend Marcus whose point of view is used to show the conflict on Long Island as it heats up.
To me, what’s happening on Long Island is almost incidental. The real meat of the book is Kira’s journey, first to Manhattan and then cross-country to Denver. Joining her are Samm and Heron, as well as a new companion, Afa. Where Partials was a bit more dystopian than post-apocalyptic, Fragments is the opposite. Kira is outside of her society now, and traveling through a world ravaged by the sudden disappearance of humans. Wells does a fantastic job of painting what the world would look like when Mother Nature starts to take the world back from human interference, and just how detrimental some of our activities are. Overall, this is a book about consequences, and how there may not be any good choices to make.
A marked improvement
While fellow reviewer Aaron loved Partials, I found it pandering and annoying. I will grant that a large part of my issue with Partials was that I did not agree with many of the pre-industrial elements of the society on Long Island. When I was constantly being thrown out of the book by how fast horse drawn wagons were zipping around the island, it was really hard to enjoy the story. Fragments breaks away from these annoyances for the most part, if only because most of the travel is not being described in distance over exact measurements of time. Marcus spends the book desperately trying to apply bandages in a war zone, and Kira is on a long distance trek where how far she travels in a day just isn’t that interesting or important. I also found Fragments to be paced better than its predecessor. The cast is smaller, and the relationships are more sharply defined. When, at the end of the book, Kira looks back on the decisions she made at the beginning of the book with regret, it’s because she’s matured and not because she’s had sudden insight into the fact that she may not be strictly human.
Why should you read this book?
Fragments lives up to the promise that Partials made but didn’t quite fulfill. It’s a tightly written adventure with lots of grey areas and very few black-and-whites. For fans of The Hunger Games or dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature in general, this is a fantastic choice for your next read. There’s lots of lovely twists and turns to savor, and the ending left me on the edge of my seat, wanting the final book right now! However, this is a young adult book, so there is a bit of dumb teenager floating around as well as the ubiquitous love triangle.