Most of the books I read, I read because I've followed some trail of hype. Popular on Goodreads or all my friends have read it or best selling, etc, etc. It's so nice, then, to just pick up a book because it sounded good and to discover what feels like a hidden gem. Feno Chemical spills an experimental pesticide near a small town in Iowa. Those that survive the contamination are quarantined, guarded by the US Army and a private security force. They work, eat, sleep and are under constant medical supervision. Ellie Caulley's history in containment, all seven years of it, is complicated. She's lost a lover and gained one. She's angry but combats that by constantly smoking something. She's apathetic yet she still seems to have fight in her. And now, Flowertown as the quarantine area is dubbed, seems to be falling apart at the seams. I really, really liked Ellie. Not in an "I can relate to her, I want to hang out with her on Saturdays" way. I just loved that she was a complicated hero, but that at the end of the day, she kicked ass. I loved that I was rooting for a character who almost never showered, who swore like a sailor and tended to miss what was in front of her. Regardless of what gave her the bite that followed her bark, Ellie is a fighter and there is nothing that I like better in a character. The premise of this novel was fairly unique and well executed. I often found myself asking the "what if" questions. I found myself playing the, "just imagine" game. What if there was a chemical spill of this magnitude? What if a small population could infect the country or the world? Just imagine being stuck in this microcosm. Just imagine how you would react as you realized that life was slowly bleeding out its meaning. Would I be a 2? A 5? A 7? Docile and accepting? Normal? Angry? Any story that can stir up this sort of extended reaction is doing something right. I did not see the big twist coming until just the right moment. I pieced it all together just a tick before Ellie gets the reveal, which is nicely done by the author. I got the satisfaction of the OH MY GOD, I FIGURED IT OUT. Plus, when the reveal came, it didn't feel like it came from left field. I saw all the pieces fall together. The supporting cast is all wonderful as well, from Ellie's farm girl roommate to her intimidating boss. The newspaper selling ex-professor. The market owning old woman who never sleeps. The more I think about it, the more I realize how quirky and interesting they all were. I have no complaints about the writing, but no big observations there either. I found some of the dialogue to be better than good and liked the rough and tumble feel of everyone in the town. I found myself wondering at the end if this is meant to be a stand alone novel. I think it should be, or rather it could be, but in that case I was a little dissatisfied with the end. Either it was an amazing cliffhanger or I'm going to go wonder what happened to the villain and a few other balls left in the air while I eat ice cream now. Specifically: - Why would Bing talk to Ellie about conspiracy theory stuff?- Who was responsible for putting the new guard near the red area in the records room?- Why was Rachel's clearance to leave denied?- What was really happening to Rachel if she was clean?- What were the files Ellie stole, really? Just records of the dead?It's kind of funny how the small things are sticking out to me when at the end we don't know where the evil doctor is. Which reminds me,- Who is the third doctor?You get the picture. Wish I had more answers. This was a nice break from my typical book and I certainly don't regret reading it. One of the better things I've read in 2012.