Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published: September 2013
Genre: young adult, horror, paranormal
After a plague of vampires is unleashed in the world, Katie is kicked out of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. Now in exile, she enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two “English” friends and a horse by her side. Together they seek answers and other survivors—but each sunset brings the threat of vampire attack, and each sunrise the threat of starvation.
And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can these new people be trusted, and are they even people at all?
Katie, the Englisher Alex, and Englisher Ginger, are thrown out of Katie’s Amish community and placed under the Bann. The only way they can survive in the wastelands thronging with vampires is to find untainted holy ground, kill, or use holy relics and symbols to deflect attacks. As they journey north with a horse and a wolf, Katie struggles with her faith, the concept of humanity, and the power of God’s forgiveness as she commits every sin to survive. When she’s confronted with a scientific “cure,” she must choose her battles: to take the cure and become less human in the eyes of God, or live a life abandoned and on the run.
Just as horrifying and gripping as The Hallowed Ones, this book promises everything and more for this struggle for humanity. The landscape is hauntingly bare, the night is filled with anxiety, and the day is filled with worries over food, sleep, and survival. Every abandoned home and store is examined thoroughly before entering, in hopes the food hasn’t spoiled, the home is warm, and the vampires have not created a nest. Every human is looked upon with caution, and even holy ground is considered unsafe.
Katie’s internal struggles were absolutely fascinating to read. She’s confronted with all sorts of issues while she fights to survive Outside. First, there’s violence. Although it is in the name of self-defense, she struggles justifying it when her Amish faith says she must turn the other cheek. Second, there’s theft and vanity. She and Alex constantly steal from abandoned stores and homes, and she has to shed her Amish clothes for English ones. There are other issues, such as pride and greed, that she struggles with in her faith. Katie moves further and further away from her upbringing, and it distresses her immensely. Each move she makes, she gave careful thought, and frequently asks God for forgiveness for her transgressions.
Alex and Katie’s love was beautiful. It’s not the all-consuming passion so often read about in young adult novels. Alex respects her, seeks her opinion on matters and treats her like an equal. Katie loves his commitment, his steady presence. All they need is a look, a hand to hold, a piece of food to share. Their bond was peppered with tenderness I have not read in ages. And I think that’s what makes this book great overall: it is the end of the world, a fight for survival, and the time on the run is spent treasuring every moment, the good and bad.