**Find this and other reviews @ The Demon Librarian**When I read the blurb for VIRAL NATION, I was intrigued. YA dystopian and sci-fi, together in one book? Sounds good to me! Then I read the sample chapters (you can find them here). After I got over my initial "holy wow" reaction, I practically fell over myself in my haste to add the book to my TBR list.It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Better, in fact.VIRAL NATION begins sixteen years after a devastating virus swept the country and destroyed the world as everyone knew it. Survivors are few, conditions are harsh, and almost every aspect of life is controlled and regimented. It's a bleak existence for many, to say the least, and some of what I read shocked the hell out of me. There were several points in the story when I was so appalled and pissed off on the characters' behalf, I was ready to start a revolution myself.But for every dark tunnel, there is a light, and in VIRAL NATION, that light is Clover, West and Jude.Let's start with Clover. The blurb describes her as "brilliant". I have a different word for her. AMAZEBALLS - and trust me, my friends, she is. She's one of those characters who grabs your hand and doesn't let go until you've turned the very last page of the book - and even then, she stays with you. There was so much about her that impressed me, from her genius mind, to her indomitable spirit, to her courage in the face of near-impossible odds. She just blew me away.Clover's older brother, West, is equally impressive. When the story begins, he is torn between brotherly duty and a young man's natural desire to strike out on his own. Clover's acceptance into the prestigious Academy grants him a new lease on life - until everything goes wrong, and suddenly, he and Clover are thrown into the deep end of a shark-infested pool. West's whole world is turned upside down, and the way he handles it, well, it speaks volumes. He's a keeper, folks. One of the good ones.Speaking of brother and sister, the authentic interaction between Clover and West deserves a special mention. Yes, they squabble like any siblings do, but the love between them shines through in every scene. Their relationship is, in many ways, the beating heart of this story, and Shaunta Grimes conveyed it beautifully.Last but not least, there is Jude. When he first appeared in the book, my reaction was, "hmmm, I wonder...", and when he showed up again, a little later, I was completely bowled over. I mean, DAMN, could he get any more awesome? There's something so wonderfully understated about him, a quiet but commanding "presence" that makes you sit up and take notice every time he is on the page. He's amazing with Clover - with everyone, really - and I spent the whole book crushing on him.The action of the story is on the subtle side. You won't find any big explosions or crazy chase scenes within its pages, but don't worry, there are more than enough twists, turns, and surprising developments to keep your heart pumping. And it's only the beginning. This is a series, after all, and I am beyond excited to see where it goes.VIRAL NATION is not a book you want to miss, my friends. Take my advice and add it to your list today.