Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Nobody's ever really explained the Spill. Was it an angelic visitation? A nanotech accident? A porthole opening from another world? Whatever it was, no one's allowed in the Spill Zone these days except government scientists and hazmat teams. But a few intrepid explorers know how to sneak through the patrols and steer clear of the dangers inside the Zone. Addison Merrick is one such explorer, dedicated to finding out what happened that night, and to unraveling the events that took her parents and left her little sister mute and disconnected from the world.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I was sent a copy of this graphic novel. I was thinking maybe something to do with a nuclear meltdown and some kind of crime-fighting (judging from the cover alone) and then I started reading through and was blown away. This book is creepy, twisted, beautifully illustrated, and super compelling. I should warn people that it's not a one-off; the ending is not complete and there are a lot of unanswered questions. But the story is captivating and will hopefully keep readers engrossed for a long time after they close the book. I can't wait for the next one!

Addison gives readers glimpses into the "quirks" of the spill zone, the things that aren't quite right and that can kill you or worse if you don't watch out. There's a spot where everything becomes two-dimensional if you touch the wrong spots. There are people floating around empty, like soul-less meat bags, and rats that may or may not chase you, depending on the day. And who knows what other dangers may be lurking inside the buildings that Addison doesn't want to go into.

Then there's Addison's sister, Lexa, who was caught up in the spill, but somehow made it out with a group of children, most of whom were caught and taken away for government experiments, and none of whom are willing to talk about what happened. Lexa has a doll named Vespertine who speaks to Lexa and rides along with Addison into the spill zone to get "recharged." There is a link there that is explored but not quite fully explained yet.

Meanwhile, there is a plot involving North Korea and a survivor of another spill. We don't see much about the guy in this instalment, though we have some indication of a much more involved plot between an art collector (who buys the photos that Addison takes in the spill zone) and the North Koreans. Basically, there's a lot going on, but the layout, the dialogue, and the art create an engrossing thriller for teen and adult readers alike!

Highly Recommended

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