ARC Review: “Countdown” by Michelle Rowen

CountdownCountdown by Michelle Rowen

Goodreads | Amazon

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

3 stars

Thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for this eARC! This book will be released on September 24th, 2013.

I basically only ended up with this book because I’m auto-approved for Harlequin Teen titles, and few of them have ever disappointed me. I came into the book with no expectations, which ended up being a good thing. A little while ago I read a book called Nerve by Jeanne Ryan, and I thought that was what this was going to be like as well. It was a lot like Nerve: fast paced, twisty and action packed. But then there was that shoehorned love story that made me want to headdesk.

Countdown starts off much as you would expect. Street thief extraordinaire is kidnapped and chained up in a room with Rogan Ellis, the guy she knows as the kid who brutally murdered nine girls in their dorm. She doesn’t know where she is, until Rogan explains the rules of Countdown, a rich person’s game where street kids and criminals complete deadly challenges for their entertainment. Though she doesn’t trust him, Kira has to work together with Rogan to try to survive. Then there’s that little matter of the psychic abilities she may or may not have…

The character of Kira is pretty straight forward. She’s a street smart, if slightly naive, orphan who’s used to taking care of herself. She initially doesn’t trust Rogan, but comes to trust him because of her “gut”–or otherwise known as her Psi abilities to feel others emotions. She’s the typical lived-on-the-street-but-still-believes-in-people heroine. She also falls pretty hard and fast for Rogan–very fast, did I mention? Sigh insta-love.

Rogan, on the other hand, started off as a very interesting character. Then the layers are peeled back and he was a little more of a stock character than I would have liked. He was the typical wounded, rough-around-the-edges kind of hero/anti-hero. Neither he nor Kira were particularly wowing as characters, but they didn’t fall flat either, so they were pretty okay.

The plot of this novel, however, is what really shines. Rowen had enough twists in here for several books. Each level of Countdown has, of course, a countdown clock which ramps up the anxiety very well. In between levels–and even during them sometimes–the line between truth and fiction gets blurred so that it’s hard to tell who’s telling the truth and who’s manipulating who. Though I was not shocked by the overall ending, the way we got there was unexpected at several turns and I really enjoyed that.

Besides the plot, however, at best I’d call the novel mediocre. The characters weren’t particularly exciting, the love story didn’t wow me (but few do anymore…) and the world was your typical dystopic city. However, if you’re looking for a plot with a lot of twists and turns and action, it might be worth it to overlook the characters and dive right into this one. I wouldn’t recommend you buy it in hardcover or anything, but it might be something to get in paperback/ebook or the library!

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