Bloom: A scary plant pandemic that now seems possible

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsBloom by Kenneth Oppel science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsBloom by Kenneth Oppel

Three kids battle an invasive plant in Kenneth Oppel’s latest middle grade fantasy. Bloom (2020) is mysterious and thrilling all the way through. Our heroes are:

Anaya, who’s allergic to almost everything.

Petra, who’s allergic to water. She used to be Anaya’s best friend until Anaya betrayed her.

Seth, the new kid in town who’s being fostered by farmers.

When black weeds appear suddenly and grow tall overnight, nobody knows what they are, even Anaya’s botanist father. The townsfolk pull out and chop down the weeds but they just come back the next day. Nothing kills them.

It’s soon discovered that these weeds are growing all over the planet and causing severe allergic reactions. People are wearing face masks to protect themselves from the pollen, but so many are still ending up in the hospital, overburdening the healthcare system. Makeshift tent hospitals are appearing. Adults can’t go to work. The world economy shrinks. Famine is a real danger if an effective herbicide isn’t discovered soon.

Hatch by Kenneth Oppel

Sequel

People are starting to think the plant is a biological weapon, but who created it? The answer may lie in the DNA of our heroes, the three kids who happen to be immune to the plant’s toxic effects and are, in fact, healthier than ever. Can scientists study them to get clues about the origins of the invasive species? Can they use their blood to make a vaccine?

Bloom is a fast-paced and exciting thriller with likeable but slightly under-developed protagonists. The story would have benefited from a few more tension-relieving respites where we could get to know and love our heroes better. I appreciated that, with Seth’s character, Oppel is able to enlighten his readers about the foster care system and to show what it must be like for a child who feels unloved and unwanted by society. These were nice moments. Also nice is the inclusion of benevolent adults who work alongside the children.

I also wish Oppel had done a little more with the setting, which is a remote island in Canada. I would have liked to explore it a bit more.

Bloom includes a serviceable smattering of science (biology, botany, genetics, epidemiology) that’s at the right level for middle grade readers. You may have noticed that the story is eerily parallel to what we’re dealing with during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it seem all the more possible and scary.

Bloom ends on a cliffhanger. I’m eager to find out what happens next in Hatch, book two of THE OVERTHROW which will be available in September 2020. I’m listening to the audiobook versions produced by Listening Library and narrated by Sophie Amoss, who gives a great performance.

Published in February 2020. The first book in a can’t-put-it-down, can’t-read-it-fast-enough action-thriller trilogy that’s part Hatchet, part Little Shop of Horrors! The invasion begins–but not as you’d expect. It begins with rain. Rain that carries seeds. Seeds that sprout–overnight, everywhere. These new plants take over crop fields, twine up houses, and burrow below streets. They bloom–and release toxic pollens. They bloom–and form Venus flytrap-like pods that swallow animals and people. They bloom–everywhere, unstoppable. Or are they? Three kids on a remote island seem immune to the toxic plants. Anaya, Petra, Seth. They each have strange allergies–and yet not to these plants. What’s their secret? Can they somehow be the key to beating back this invasion? They’d better figure it out fast, because it’s starting to rain again….

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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