“The Secret Runners of New York” by Matthew Reilly

Thanks to Hot Key Books and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review

As a rule I tend to review books by female authors. It’s not a fully conscious decision as such but I just tend to gel better with female perspectives, particularly when it comes to YA. When I read the premise for this book though, I was intrigued.

This novel has been described as a mix of Gossip Girl and Mad Max and really…that description is pretty spot on. The main character Skye, is a rich kid who has moved to New York with her family after the divorce of her parents. She attends the stereotypical snotty private school and falls in with the cool girls. These aren’t just any cool girls though, their leader Misty, has a magical stone which enables her and her friends to travel to a future post-apocalyptic New York City. As you do.

In Skye’s current timeline the world is about to be engulfed in a gamma cloud that will destroy 99%+ of the earth’s population (yeah, idk either) and there is a growing sense of impending societal collapse. Yeah, it’s a crazy premise no doubt but somehow it works.

Despite being a bit bonkers, this book was very readable. The premise is certainly interesting and even though some of the characters were rather tropey (manic pixie dream girl, bitchy queen bee, jock with a heart of gold) the dialogue was snappy and the pop culture references which I usually HATE really worked in the context of this story and gave it a real sense of time and place. There were some witty observations e.g. ‘it was the classic ‘Republican Voter’s Bookshelf’ and the elitist attitudes of the upper echelons of New York society were portrayed in a hammy, but believable, way.

Both current and future versions of New York were captured really well and I liked the inclusions of the maps too. Some parts of the book were genuinely chilling and creepy but all the more entertaining for it.

This book is not without its issues though. As a main character, Skye is rather one dimensional and quite frankly, not very interesting. At certain points the book teeters on the cliff edge of being more than a little insensitive to those suffering from mental illness and I also couldn’t help but notice fat = bad and gross when it came to some of the characters. The good guys are attractive and the bad guys have physical imperfections. It’s a little tired. I’m not easily offended so it didn’t bother me overall, but others might feel differently.

From a purely nitpicky point of view, bodies still having flesh on them 20+ years after death? In the New York climate? Hmmmmm… Also the whole background explanation for the portals could have been interesting but was just kinda glossed over and never really mentioned again which was a shame because it could have been interesting.

As is often the case with these kinds of books, things start to flag towards the end. It’s ironic that Skye is such a huge Stephen King fan because this novel suffered from one of the issues that King’s novels often do; they just don’t know how and when to quit.

I feel like I probably wasn’t supposed to like this book but I couldn’t help enjoying it regardless. It was fun and imaginative and entertained me enough to overlook most of its flaws.

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