When I first started this book I was surprised by how many three star reviews the book had netted on Goodreads. “Were these people crazy?” I wondered, pouring over the pages and loving the mystery of Min and Noah, why they were being killed and brought back to life. And then the second half of the book happened…
Let’s back up. Here’s the publisher’s description:
He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.
It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.
Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.
For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.
Initially the limited information made available about the conspiracy is interesting. There are nefarious adults in positions of trust, classmates enacting the usual class breakdowns and mysterious government vehicles. It’s enough to keep my spidey-senses tingling.
But as the book transitioned into what I would call “the second act” we started entering into territory that not only felt familiar, but frankly, felt like it had also been done better by other authors. I’m all for stealing like an artist but this book felt a lot like a mashup of “Lord of the Flies”and “The Flight of the Silvers,” with a dash of “Annihilation” and “Spin” (the last of which I did not finish because it was way too much science mumbo jumbo and not enough plot for me)
The book ended with what felt like a natural moment of pause before a new story arc, and not too much of a cliffhanger, which is kind of a sweet spot for books in a series, but it wasn’t necessarily enough to make me want to pick up the next book.
At the risk of potentially spoiling things just a little (official mild spoiler warning) I will say that I’ve grown tired of the “teen survival of the fittest” genre. I think the book could have been a lot more effective if Min had been the only character narrating the book. Part of what made “The Hunger Games” such a compelling read was understanding who Katniss was, why she made the choices she did, and how she needed to operate in the world that we had been presented, even without greater background. In this book, bouncing back and forth between Min and Noah broke up the story too much and made it hard to be invested in either character’s outcome. Not to mention that at no point in the story did I actually like or particularly understand Noah. I get that conflicted milquetoast people exist in real life, I just don’t necessarily want them narrating books.
There was also a hint of a potential love triangle that given its vagueness I thought I could spare myself the eye rolling, but then it both accelerated and blew apart at such random intervals that I wanted to ask Brendan Reichs if he wasn't a fan of love triangles either, or if he had waited to make up his mind about it three quarters of the way through the book.
5 stars for the first 286 pages, 2.5 stars for the rest of the book, and 1 star for the reveal, averaging out to 3 stars.
What did you think of Nemesis? Were you a fan of the world Reichs created? Will you be picking up the next book when it comes out?