Dan Smith, Boy X

Chicken House, 2016, ISBN 978-1-909489-04-2

Ash wakes up in terrible pain in a room he's never seen before. Everything feels strange, and he can't understand why his senses seem far more acute than usual. It takes him a while to realise that he's been kidnapped and drugged, and now he's a prisoner in a research facility on a jungle-covered island. Worse, his mother and her fellow genetic scientists have been infected with a deadly virus they have been working on. Both it and the tiny amount of antidote they have developed have been stolen. The thieves are going to release the virus into the world, and it could destroy everything. Ash is appalled when he works out that there's a link between his drugged state, the theft of the virus and his father's recent death. He discovers he isn't alone. Isabel is the daughter of one of the scientists. She and he were the sole inhabitants of the island. Despite their qualms, Ash and she have to trust each other. They have just hours to track down the thieves, recover the virus and find the antidote. They break out of the facility, but now have the terrors of the jungle to navigate. There is danger everywhere, from their human enemies, and from the horrifying mutant plants and animals that years of genetic experimentation have produced.

Isabel and Ash are excellent protagonists. She is brave, clever and resourceful, and has an in-depth knowledge of the island. He is courageous too and quick-witted. His mixed-race family has equipped him with some great skills, not least jungle-craft. He is also emotionally vulnerable, following his father's death. Both are victims, in different ways, of the misuse of science on the island.

Boy X is a very exciting read and will be very popular. Dan Smith really knows how to ratchet up the tension.