By CAROLYN LESSARD Associated Press
“Virals” (Razor Bill, $17.99), by Kathy Reichs: Tory Brennan isn’t like other teenage girls. A self-proclaimed science geek and tomboy, Tory doesn’t want to fit in with the popular crowd. Living with her marine biologist dad on a nature preserve island off the Carolina coast, she’d rather be watching the Discovery Channel than mixing with the shallow and superficial prep school set.
Tory’s only friends are fellow teenage islanders: Ben, the muscle; Shelton, the gadget guru; and Hiram, the comical sidekick. Together they form a ragtag team of misfits who regularly embark on “stealth missions” (self-assigned explorations) to off-limit areas around the island.
On one mission, they discover a corroded and illegible military dog tag. They want to return the dog tag to its owner, so they break into a science lab to borrow a piece of equipment to properly clean it. In the lab, they find a sick puppy that’s being used for experimentation and scheduled for termination. They decide to rescue it.
While nursing the puppy back to health, the teens are unwittingly exposed to an unknown virus that gives them canine characteristics and supersensory skills.
Their lives are endangered after they make a gruesome discovery, and a corrupt research doctor suspects them of the lab break-in. But the ever-resilient crew, armed with Internet research and their iPhones, reveal a cover-up involving a local politician and a decades-old missing person case.
“Virals” is Kathy Reichs’ first young adult fiction book, and it features Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, the subject of Reichs’ adult series “Bones” (and inspiration for the Fox TV series of the same name).
Reichs doesn’t bog down the novel with a lot of complicated tech talk. She adds a supernatural element to appeal to a younger audience and keeps this enthralling tale moving with the appropriate amount of mystery, adventure — and a lot of humor.