E-galley received for review from Netgalley.
Velvet Ellis is a seventee-year-old girl who has to take care fo her little sister Opal after both their parents were victims of the Contamination - an epidemic caused by a diet drink which turned normal people into violent zombie-like beings. The government rounded up the "Connies" and fitted them with collars which shock them into being calm. Velvet's dad was killed after being contaminated, but her mother is still alive and can now come back home. Velvet is determined to take care of her. However, after she has to leave school, their landlord kicks them out and her sister gets in trouble with her classmates, she realizes it's going to be more difficult than she thought.
This book has very little plot, actually. What happens could be squeezed up into ten pages or so. The rest is just Velvet struggling to go to work, look after her sister, and take care of her mother. At first she has a boyfriend, then breaks up with him after he find him cheating on her, then meets another guy. At first she goes to school part-time so she can work at an assisted living facility, then drops out of school to work full time, then she's fired. It's not clear how she finds money to pay for groceries and bus tickets after that.
This is the first book in a series, but it is extremely slow. The world-building is not very detailed - there is only the description of this Contamination which hit the US in waves and is similar to the "mad cow" disease. Connies aren't really zombies, in that they are not dead. But they still behave like zombies. Scientists believe that the virus caused holes in their brains, so it's impossible for Connies to get normal again. They can't speak and need collar sending them electrical shocks at regular intervals in order to keep calm. If they get too restless, the collars are programmed to kill them.
Velvet is not a very likeable heroine. She has gone through horrible stuff and has had a very difficult life since the Contamination started. However, she doesn't seem very wise. In fact, she keeps making stupid decisions and wondering why she did that. She never seems to learn. Velvet's sister Opal is ten, but behaves like a spoiled five-year-old. She doesn't want to go to school, doesn't do her homework, throws tantrums... I believe she should be more matire and responsible, after losing both parents. Dillon, Velvets' new boyfriend, is almost too good to be true. He doesn't seem to have any single flaw. Good for Velvet, I guess, but not as a believable character.
I don't know if I want to keep reading this series. Not if the pace keeps being so slow. Something needs to happen for the plot to go on, and for readers to be interested in the story.