Hearts Still Beating

Brooke Archer

YA Queer Post-Apocalyptic

Gripping, romantic, and impossible to put down, this dark and immersive post-apocalyptic debut YA novel is about two teen girls who loved each other before the end of the world — and before one of them became infected with the virus that turned her into a monster.

Perfect for fans of Krystal Sutherland, Adam Silvera, and the darkly human side of the HBOMax horror-drama, The Last of Us.

Seventeen-year-old Mara is dead—mostly.

Infected with a virus that brought the dead back to life and the world to its knees, she wakes up in a facility to learn a treatment for the disease has been found. No longer a Tick, Mara is placed in an experimental resettlement program. But her recovery is complicated by her destination: she’s sent to live with the best friend she hasn’t seen since the world ended—and since their first and only kiss.

Seventeen-year-old Rory is alive—barely.

With impaired mobility from an injury and a dead sister, Rory’s nightmares are just as monstrous as the Ticks that turned her former best friend. Even after the Island—one of a handful of surviving communities—rebuilds itself, Rory is prepared for the Ticks to return at any time. She never expected them to come in the form of the only girl she’s ever loved.

As the girls struggle with their pasts and the people they’ve become, the Island’s soldiers go rogue and come after the Ticks and anyone harboring them. With the Island’s fragile peace in the balance, Rory and Mara must lean on each other to survive—or risk losing the girl they love all over again.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Mara is a teen who became afflicted with an illness that has swept the country. This illness now has a cure, as long as it is given each day. She is sent to her god parents house to live and integrate back into society. But the girl she loves is there.

The illness was one that made people become vicious, violent and mostly dead. For lack of better term, a “zombie” as we know it. They got what they called a “tick” in their head and it took over their brain and body. With the anecdote, the tick is tamed enough to not have control, but it’s still there. With that being said, there were few details into the Ticks attacking others, it is nothing like most zombie books.

“It isn’t just monsters who end the world. It’s men.”

We are introduced to a little community where people are thriving. Bringing Ticks there is causing an uproar and unsettlement of their lives. Many are against them, many are for them. The contention and the people on each side guide the story into one that evokes emotions but also curiosity.

The romance between Mara and her previous best friend, Rory is contentious at best. Both have feelings that make matters difficult. Their romance wasn’t one I fully was behind. It didn’t feel established enough (oddly) and I had mixed feelings because most of the time they felt like old best friends, not romantic. I also very much wanted more details into how the tick came into play and more about the world or society in general. We are given a very small glimpse into how it changed society. This was not a downfall, just something my curiosity craves.

“Resilience is a never-ending battle.”

The ending was a great one. It felt optimistic and it left me feeling content. I recommend this one to queer romance lovers that love a dystopian society.

General content summary: F words= 11

Some language

Plague zombies- like people (Not fully human, one has killed their parents, one is missing an ear)

Ticks (zombie-like) attack people (they are caught with a loop on a pole or killed, people fight against them with bats and more, blood, many Tick body details of decay, people kill many Ticks that include kids)

Many family members were killed 

Nail gun pointed at a head 

Cities were bombed (previous, few details)

Memories of a family member being killed by a Tick (some details)

F/F kisses (previous and present)

Physical violence (against Ticks but people too, injuries, blood, gunshot wound, broken bones)

Fire in building (people inside)

People tranquilized 

Captivity (cages, forced fighting)

Biting an ear off (few details, blood)

Interrogation (physical harm such as punches and broken bones)

Fight to the death in an arena (fighting, skull cracking open, baseball bat, pickaxe, scythe, gun, some details)

Thank you to Penguin Teen for the copies!

The book releases April 2, 2024.

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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