Review: The Farm

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The FarmThe Farm by Emily McKay
Series: The Farm #1
Published by Berkley on December 4, 2012
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance
Pages: 420
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...

First Sentence: “Some days, you just want to let the bad guys win.”

Like its cover, Emily McKay’s The Farm is exceedingly dark and creepy, filled with the kinds of vampires that are never going to make swoon-inducing heroes. The Farm reminded me somewhat of The Passage and of The Immortal Rules, both in tone and vampire-ness.

In The Farm, the world has been overrun by Ticks. No, not the bugs. Humans-turned-monsters that feed on human blood. As is the case in roughly 37% of post-apocalyptic fiction, scientific research intended to help humanity accidentally got loose and turned some of the population into man-eating monsters. Oops! The road to hors d’oeuvres is paved with good intentions, right?

Like in The Passage, the humans have consolidated into walled communities, carefully defended from the monsters roaming the majority of the world. Thankfully, the Ticks are not as clever as the creatures in The Passage. The difference, though, is that the humans are not behind the walls united to fight against the monsters. The people under eighteen were rounded up and stuck into these Farms, ostensibly because young, hormonal people are the most delicious and thus the most endangered. They are fed up, fattened up, and required to go for regular blood draws, this and the crazy, out-of-control vamps outside the city reminded me heavily of The Immortal Rules.

Lily and her twin sister Mel are about to turn eighteen. Unconvinced that what will happen on their birthday will be at all pleasant (nobody knows what becomes of the people who ‘graduate’ from the Farms), Lily determines that they will escape. She prepares to trade for the final items necessary to complete their withdrawal from the camp. Everything’s planned; she can keep Mel safe.

Lily lives her life for Mel, her mother’s last words having been an invocation to protect her sister. Mel has autism, which has not been improved by the collapse of the world as it once was. In high school, Mel was relatively high-functioning, but, now, she can no longer speak in anything but nursery rhymes, something she did as a child. Lily’s love and care for Mel is powerful and touching, definitely the most powerful aspect of the book for me.

Just when they’re about ready to escape, enter the love interest, Carter, the only crush Lily has ever had. He was the typical bad boy and Lily’s lab partner. He now seems like he could be their deliverance, if only she could trust him, which she can’t do, since he obviously wants something. Though this won’t make sense if you haven’t read it, I have to state that I’m really not a fan of the abductura angle of the story, especially if this book is a standalone.

McKay uses three perspectives to tell the story: Lily, Carter and Mel. The bulk of the narration is Lily’s in first person. She has a powerful voice, and is one of those heroines that manages to be likable but not all that nice. Her sections really worked. Mel’s sections, also in first person, were perhaps my favorites and I really wish that they had been longer. Mel has a unique way of perceiving the world that I found utterly beautiful. Unfortunately, she receives only about ten pages. None of her sections are above two pages.

Where things go wonky are Carter’s bits. For some reason I cannot even begin to fathom, Carter’s sections are told in third person. This threw me out of the story every single time, because everything else was in first person and I expect that to continue. Choose one! As a result, I also didn’t have as strong of a sense of Carter’s character. Actually, I don’t really think it was entirely necessary to have him as a POV. I think The Farm would have worked better as all Lily’s narration or a more-balanced narration with just the two sisters.

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic horror novels, The Farm will not disappoint. From what I can tell (aka Goodreads), The Farm is a standalone, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that more books are coming. It could really go either way, I think, but there are subjects that have scarcely been touched on, such as the folks orchestrating the Farms (and what precisely happens there) or where all the adults are. I personally hope there’s more.

Favorite Quote:

“‘It’s my own job to keep myself safe. I’ve been doing that quite well for the past six months. So don’t treat me like I can’t take care of myself. Next time you’re planning on rushing off to save the day, tell me your plan first.'”

16 responses to “Review: The Farm”

  1. OOOH! There was a book that I read recently like this! Hold Me Closer, Necromancer! It had a bunch of different perspectives and all were first person BUT one was third, WTF? It totally got me all discombobulated every time it switched like that.

    The premise of this one sounds good enough to draw me in, I’ve had my eye on The Farm for a while. Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Really? Gah! Is this a new trend? Why would they do this? I kept thinking I was some other character because I could see the three that were there and it was just WEIRD.


  2. First of all, I’m a little bummed that we aren’t dealing with giant attacking, bloodsucking bugs here. I really thought it was going to be about ticks.

    The multiple POVs concerns me. Especially since you had some issues with them. If they are done well, fine…but now I’m worried.

    The story does sound suspenseful and interesting so I will definitely still read it, but I will certainly not be expecting as much as I was before.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I was a little disappointed too, though that would have horrified me. Still, Ticks, the bug, would have been way more original.

      The POVs are written well, except for Carter in the third person. Lily really is about 85-90% of it, so you should still maybe give it a try.

      Probably better to go into it with slightly lowered expectations.

  3. M.A.D. says:

    It’s kinda hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of ticks! lol
    Although, the creepy holding pen & quarantine sure sounds like an intense, yummy read … it’s different, I’ll say that for sure 🙂

    Thank you for the sweet giveaway <3

    Mary DeBorde M.A.D.

    Ps – I’m pretty sure I’ve already filled out the form, but we’ve been helping family move/remodel for the last 3 weeks so everything’s kind of a hit n’ miss blur lol ;P

  4. Steena says:

    Gah, a book of giant, blood-sucking ticks I would not have been pleased to read. But it is a clever moniker for a vampiric race.

    I’m excited to read this, particularly Mel’s parts (sad that they are brief). Something akin to Adda’s narration in Poisonwood Bible? Non-traditional character perspectives are my fave.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, that would have been like my nightmare. Well, actually, the most horrifying would be monster bees. Or a killer bee outbreak or something. STILL, it would not be good.

      Yes, something like that, though I think Adda’s thoughts were a bit more normal. I can see how those portions might have been really hard to write, but I wish she had persevered and done more with it. Maybe if there’s another book? I wish I knew if there was another book.

  5. Lilian says:

    Somehow I would’ve been more horrified at actually bloodsucking ticks…than bloodsucking people. At least with ticks, they are so minuscule that you don’t see them coming and makes it more horrifying when they are swarming into your room. But people? We would hear them 20feet away. And then we shoot them with AK-47s.

    I’m anticipating The Farm, it seems like it’s one of the less featured BEA YA books. This is the first review I’ve seen of it.


    • Christina says:

      Yup. I would have been MUCH more horrified with the bugs. Guns aren’t especially effective versus the ticks, unless you pretty much blow its whole head off.

      Well, from what I can tell, Penguin doesn’t especially think of this one as a YA. I don’t know why. I guess because the heroine’s 18? I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw people labeling it ‘new adult,’ but this didn’t feel non-YA to me, so I label it what I want. I haven’t seen any reviews either! It doesn’t come out until December though and isn’t a super anticipated sequel, so that may be why. I just got the jump on everyone.

      Eeeks! Good luck!

  6. I read this ARC as well and really enjoyed it. There were aspects that threw me off a bit, but it was fast-paced and I enjoyed the multiple views. I haven’t read The Passage or Immortal Rules, so that might make me like this one more than you did. And I have to assume a sequel is planned based on the ending and Mel’s character, and I hope that it gets published!

    • Christina says:

      Right? There’s just no info that I can find on it! But I do hope there’s a sequel. I did enjoy reading it, but it just wasn’t quite a four star, because of the issue with the POV switch for Conner.

  7. I got a copy of this at BEA and at first I totally thought it was about giant bugs, and almost gave it back to the girl who generously let me have hers. But I’m glad I didn’t! I’ll be reading this one for my Halloween thing on my blog. I’m really glad you like it – I was so worried that it was going to be crap.

    • Christina says:

      Good choice. It would have been more original and possibly better with bugs, but I am also epically terrified of bugs. Anyway, this one’s a good action story, and the stuff with Mel adds a deeper element. This is PERFECT for your Halloween event!

  8. Emily McKay says:

    Hi Christina,

    Thanks for featuring The Farm on your blog and for reviewing the book!
    There is a sequel in the works for The Farm. We don’t have a title yet, but I’m working on it now!

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