The Secret Runners by Matthew Reilly

The Secret Runners by Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Pan McMillan Australia
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, YA
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Gossip Girl meets Mad Max in this breakneck thriller where the line between rich and poor is the line between life and death. You can’t buy your way out of the end of the world in this edge-of-your-seat adventure from an internationally bestselling author.

Rich vs. Poor. Life vs. Death.

When Skye Rogers and her twin brother, Red, move to Manhattan, rumors of a coming global apocalypse are building. But the ultra-wealthy young elites at their prestigious school keep partying like there’s no tomorrow–while the city around them starts to fall apart.

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Skye and her twin brother Red have moved to Manhattan with their mother and step-father and are starting their junior year at the most exclusive school – The Monmouth School. Full of the richest and most elite children even in a city known for their wealth, Skye and Red still find the usual high school dramas everywhere. Cliques. Bullying. Home work and classes. Yet when Red, and then later Skye, are invited to join the most elite and secret club of them all, neither know just how dramatically it will change their lives.

I’ve had this book on my to-be-read pile for a long time. Matthew Reilly is one of my top favorite authors and I always love his work. So when I needed a change of pace and something a little lighter and more adventurous I was delighted to re-find this on my pile. Known for his massive (and slightly crazy) adventure and action sequences as well as his rocket-fast pace I loved how this was clearly the author flexing some of his considerable skill and stepping a shade or two outside his usual routine. While the last third or so of the book is absolutely lightning paced and full of adventure and thrills (and I actually squealed with laughter when the ever-present grappling hook made an appearance), the book as a whole is a delightful and refreshing change of pace with a steady character and society type of set up and not instant crazy action from the first page. I feel the author handled this really well and while definitely a step out of the norm for him I still absolutely loved this book.

In many ways this read a little to me like a YA book – but one of the best sorts, one that an adult can thoroughly and shamelessly enjoy. Skye is a teenage girl and Reilly didn’t shy from that but also didn’t wallow in it either. The angst of teenage years and high school cliques, the drama of boys and periods and bullying and social status is all present but they are there to support and aid the story – not to BE the story. I loved this balance and personally found it really well handled. I totally get this won’t be every reader’s cup of tea – particularly some men who want a Jack West Jr (or Scarecrow) style of action/military style of story which is Reilly’s staple. But for me, personally, I really enjoyed it and found the different style and plot was a delightful breath of fresh air.

My only quibble (and it’s a small one) was that for the first half or so of the book I didn’t feel the relationship between Red and Syke as siblings/twins was really used to its full potential. While clear the two loved and supported each other, they pretty much led divergent lives – Red fitting easily in with the cool kids and dating one of the “mean girls” and Skye on the outside fringes. I found it somewhat odd that Red happily went his own path with the elite crowd and didn’t think much of dating a mean girl who clearly didn’t like Skye at all. I found myself frequently hoping that Red would share more of his experiences with Skye and open his world to her a little more and found it puzzling when for much of it (with a few notable exceptions) this didn’t come to pass. Admittedly once Skye was let into that clique about half way through the book, this did come to pass, but I couldn’t help but feel there was a lost opportunity for Skye and Red to have shared more of those secrets earlier on in the book.

For the final third or so of the book everything comes to a head and man it was a thrilling rush to the end of the story. Many of the plots and sub-plots that had been so carefully woven and created in the first two thirds of the book all come crashing together and the true Reilly style came out to play. I read the final part of the book late into the night, simply unable to put it down. It exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to dive back in and re-read it and catch all those smaller tidbits you always miss on the first reading.

Exciting and adventurous, slightly futuristic but all too relevant and modern this is an exceptional story and an amazing read. Highly recommended.

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