Countdown by Michelle Rowen

October 6, 2014 Reviews 2 ★★

Countdown by Michelle RowenCountdown by Michelle Rowen
Published: October 1st 2013 by HarlequinTeen
Format: Paperback, 327 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic
Source: Publisher
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2 Stars

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape.

GAME OVER.

At first glance Countdown looks and sounds too similar to The Hunger Games. But I was pleasantly surprised that the two are can be easily separated (the dystopian and kill-people-for-an-audience elements aside).

The premise is quite interesting: two strangers are forced to team up and beat six tasks against a count-down for the pleasure of a few morally bankrupt citizens of their city. But I don’t think it was executed with the finesse that I would have liked to see. The characters are quite bland and very obviously destined to fall on love, the appeal of the Countdown game to its audience isn’t clear (oh yes, they like blood, but it’s unlikely they’d all pay so much for the pleasure of seeing it in their heads when, by all accounts, the city the book is based on is dangerous as it is. Just grab a chair and sit near a window?), and the story is lacking any urgency.

Basically, the two characters were too perfect, their predicaments too easy to get out of, and they overcame many of their tasks with a bare minimum of effort. It never felt like anything was on the line and it was obvious from the end of the first chapter that they would get whatever happy-ever-after they wanted. I never felt like they were in danger of failing and so skim read the actual six tasks they had to do. It was just so obvious they were going to be successful, and where’s the fun in that?

I liked most aspects of Kira’s personality – she doesn’t take crap from anyone and isn’t afraid to take the lead in the Countdown challenges. She listens to everyone around her and is usually able to think everything through and figure out who’s lying and who isn’t. Her psi ability helps in this regard.

But she was completely irrational when it came to Rogan. Kira wakes up in a cell with the most dangerous boy she’s ever seen in her life. Three pages later, she’s thinking he looks pretty good for a murderer. And a few chapters later, she’s decided that Rogan couldn’t be a killer because he looks nice. She’s trying to kiss him and says she trusts him, and then one of the characters wonders why she’s trusting someone she didn’t know 48 hours ago. GOOD QUESTION!

However, Kira didn’t (couldn’t) always trust her too-handsome companion. They both (predictably) have dark secrets that come to light throughout the book. The Do-I-Trust-Him game got old pretty quick, because every time some new secret or fact was introduced, it was followed by another secret or fact that negated it. People lie, manipulate the truth, or just simply misunderstand what’s going on. Which means that the trust-or-not-trust thing wasn’t even real: readers will always know what nothing will ever-ever-ever get in the way of Kira and her destined-true-love Rogan.

The secondary cast in Countdown are fairly pathetic. They each failed to make an impression with me, and were relegated to the Scumbag Father, Helpful Doctor We Can’t Trust, and Best Friend Who Is In Love With Girl categories. Utterly forgettable.

So, I’m disappointed in Countdown even though it surprised me by not being as close to The Hunger Games as I had originally feared. A great premise, I think it was ultimately let down by execution: poor pacing, lack of world-building and bland characters.

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