ARV-3 by Cameo Renae
Published December 31, 2013 by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing

After solar flares make the earth uninhabitable, survivors scramble to makeshift underground shelters and inadequate government bunkers. A few make it to secret bunkers that were created to survive such a scenario. As nuclear power plants begin to explode around the world, radiation exposure poisons most of the survivors, and to add insult to injury, a government-distributed anti-radiation vaccine causes these survivors to mutate into monsters.

Ten years later, the few who lived in properly protected bunkers emerge from hiding to join forces and try to take back the earth from the mutants. ARV-3 is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Abigail Park, one of the survivors who escaped exposure to radiation and the tainted vaccine.

I’m a huge fan of dystopian YA literature, so I had high hopes for ARV-3. The opening of the novel is intriguing, and, as the main character, Abi reflects back on the situation with a lot of maturity and appreciation for the safe life she has had so far.

I like how Abi is independent and fearless — she’s the hero of her own action-movie life, but after a while, the amount of situations that Abi encounters becomes a bit too unbelievable. Abi’s story turns into a typical Hollywood action movie — lots of shooting, helicopters, mutants, some cheesy lines of dialogue, protecting the ones she loves, taking ridiculous risks.

It’s when the novel ventures into that kind of territory that the suspension of disbelief broke for me. But I continued reading because I wondered what things were going to be like in the government bunker as Abi finds her place.

I’ve spent the past day or so thinking over the novel and pondering what to say about it. ARV-3 could benefit from another revision — maybe take out some of the action, reconsider any cliched dialogue, and perhaps even edit the make-out scenes. Aside from some cringe-worthy scenes and dialogue, I decided that I would recommend this novel to students, if they like action movies. If they like zombie movies — ditto. ARV-3 is not the most literary YA novel I’ve read, but it definitely presents a fast-paced story with plenty of action.