The Complex by Cathy E Zaragoza

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 29, 2012)

Format: Kindle Edition

Plot: In a post-apocalyptic world, everyone who lives has a deadly disease called Cavall. In order to protect and hopefully save what’s left of the population, people all over the United States have been placed in Complexes to avoid further contamination with the outside world. Inside, life is idyllic: people are taken care of by advanced computer systems and given the opportunity to study any subject they see fit.  Each Complex has a Med Council which is part local government/part disease control that is desperately trying to eradicate the disease one person at a time and individual vaccines are created allowing solitary citizens to leave the Complex when he/she is finally Cavall free.

Helena Linx is devastated when she learns that her brother, Harrison, has been cured of Cavall and is about to be reintroduced into the world outside of their Complex, Eyam.  Her father is equally freaked to learn the news but in trying to tell Helena and Harrison something important about their home, he is taken into Med Council custody and neither sees him ever again.  Harrison leaves shortly after followed by Helena’s boyfriend, Devon.  She’s all alone in Eyam and desperate to be cured but nothing happens for roughly a year.  When her turn finally comes to receive her cure, Helena is ecstatic and leaves Eyam in the dust.  Reintroduction into society involves being paired with other former Complex members and learning how to function without the computer systems she’s grown up with.  Her next door neighbor, Adam, attempts to teach Helena the ways of life outside when abruptly she is kidnapped and her whole world is turned upside down.  When the kidnappers tell her some very vital information about Cavall and the Complexes, Helena must decide whether she wants her life to continue as it is post-Complex or if she’s willing to change the entire world’s perceptions of what is real.

Review: I’m gonna be trite so bear with me: they say you should never judge a book by its cover and that has never been more true than here. Cathy, I love you and I love this book, but that cover has got to go! HATE IT!

With that said, and again, I’m sorry for the over used platitude and all the honesty but I would never have thought such an amazing book was housed inside.  But it is. This book is extremely well written and I am surprised it took me so long to jump on it.  I read it in a day and a half. At one point I was forced to stop so hubby and I could go to a barbeque at a friend’s house and I actually said, “I don’t want to go have fun! I want to finish this book.” Wah wah, the whining of the over-indulged housewife. Obviously I went but I wasn’t happy about it.

So where to start? The Complex is great! The writing is superb: not flowery, pretty terse, but descriptive nonetheless.  You’re able to come up with some pretty accurate ideas of how the Complexes work and what the world outside looks like from just one or two simple sentences.  Helena is a really cool character: pretty, tough, a little snarky, wants change but is like any normal 16 year old girl in that she doesn’t know how to go about getting that change and sometimes would just rather sit and eat some lunch than you know, save the world! Plus there’s the added bonus that there really is no romance here.  Seriously. I kept thinking the author was being sly inserting so many hot male characters into the storyline to parry with the confused yet beautiful heroine.  But nope. Nothing ever came to fruition. The whole of The Complex honestly is Helena’s story of living in and then leaving Eyam and what happens to every reoriented citizen afterward.  Helena wants to rock the boat as soon as she finds out the truth about Cavall and the Complexes but isn’t sure how to go about doing it.  I don’t want to give anything away because the majority of the plot is based off this secret but let’s just say it’s a doozy. I mean, you can kinda see that something’s up with the whole disease from page 1 but you’d be hard pressed to guess what it is until about midway through when it’s spelled out for you.  Believe me, you’ll be shocked and a bit spooked because this sort of thing could honestly happen.

It’s been a long time since I read a book that has a storyline that tells a story like this one outside of the confines of a romance where the whole plot focuses on when two people get together.  This is inherently Helena’s story of maturing and adapting and I was so refreshed by it that I relished every minute of the read. Truly, get it for the great story and the fun characters but not for any misguided notion that people in this post-apocalyptic world just want to get it on cause evidently they don’t. As the author tweeted to me, “I apologize in advance for the lack of beautiful romance and hotties with smoldering gazes.” Ha. But she didn’t need to: it stands up to all that with pretty amazing results.

In the end I’m giving this a 9.2/10 and you’ll see why I deducted .8 points below.

So based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 10. Helena Linx! Come be my best friend. I need one who is street smart though clueless in the ways of the world, tells it like it is, isn’t ready to let a man fight or think for her, and is adaptable to pretty much any situation. Plus I applaud you for lashing out at the Med Council when they took your father, your brother, and your boyfriend away from you in the span of 3 months.  You go girl! 

How much did I like the love interest: Wait, is this even applicable here? There wasn’t one! But I’ll tell you who I view as possible potential love interests for her in maybe like 6 books when Cathy Zaragoza realizes that adding a little romance will get her 50% more readers: Isaac, Adam, or Foster.  For real, that is the order I love the available male characters. Cathy, please take note.

How believable is the plot:  10. The plot is pretty simple and undeniably cool.  Post-apocalyptic reads are where it’s at and after The Hunger Games movie, we can all very easily visualize this sort of decimated world and culture existing within a couple of hundred years or so. I deducted points from the overall score of the book because of the plot though: everything seemed to be a touch too easy and fall into place a bit too perfectly.  But hey, with no romance to counteract it,  other aspects of a plot should be allowed to be perfect and here that is acceptable (though the point deduction stands).

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Cathy Zaragoza writes some amazing and believable dialogue and (as mentioned earlier) like Hemingway, is a terse author constantly trying to get at the heart of what she wants to say with the least amount of words. I mean obviously that’s conjecture but based on her style, that’s what I suppose she’s doing. And yes, it’s a compliment. Who wouldn’t want to be likened to Hemingway?

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. What’s up with the Complexes? Are Helena and her merry band of kidnappers and former Complex members going to ever visit them? What’s going on with the rest of the United States? How many people survived? Will Helena ever fall in love (cause you know that’s all Ellen and I really care about; did you read above?)!

Final Score: 9.2/10 Get this book! And btw, just found out, there’s a sequel “coming sometime in September”!

****Disclaimer: I got this book for free from the author. I swear I didn’t bribe her in any way, or get paid for my review. And we might not be legit enough to need this disclaimer but after working at a law firm for many years it’s better safe than sorry!****

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4 thoughts on “The Complex by Cathy E Zaragoza

  1. Pingback: An Interview with The Complex author, Cathy E Zaragoza | I Love YA Fiction

  2. Glad I read your review because you’re right… I NEVER would have picked up this book by just looking for interesting covers. I’m adding it to my books-to-get pile right now! Thanks!

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this review! I loved the story as well!! I ordered this as an ebook and after reading halfway I ordered it online (when it was available). The cover isn’t THAT bad.. it just dosen’t have a beautiful girl/boy! But the watch is totally symbolic.

    How cool would it be if Cathy had a contest for one of her fab fans to create a cover for Complex 1?!

    Anyway — great review. Great story. 🙂

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