Countdown by Michelle Rowen Review

Monday, November 4, 2013

Title: Countdown
Author: Michelle Rowen (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape.

There is something to be said for dystopian fiction in its most simplistic form. The reason the genre first appealed to me was simply because of its stark, brutal reality, which was oddly disconcerting to readers, if only because the ideas behind them were essentially plausible in a futuristic society, for all we know. Throughout the evolution of the dystopian genre though, we've come to notice cross-genre fiction, and Countdown embodies that it wholeheartedly. This vivid dystopian novel combines a dark dystopian premise with a distinctive sci-fi undertones, which help to set it apart from other such novels. Author, Michelle Rowen, gives readers a sinister game within the pages that lures us in, traps us inside and threatens to never let us go.

Countdown gives us a plot that, while not entirely original, is gripping nonetheless. The nature of the countdown clock gives us a predetermined time limit within which the characters we become invested in have to find a way to outwit the game and survive - or die trying. There is something dark and sadistic about the nature of the countdown that makes us need to keep reading, if only to find out whether these characters have a fighting chance.

The novel, however, does not come without its baggage. Much of Countdown is extremely reminiscent of The Hunger Games, which I can usually forgive because many a novel borrows upon its predecessors. In terms of this book, however, I could draw distinct parallels between events in The Hunger Games and events in Countdown. The fact that Kira was paired with Rogan then later told she would have to kill him in order to win the game drew directly from the troubles of Katniss and Peta. The fact that Countdown is a game with subscribers seemed eerily similar to the Arena and the people of the Capitol. There were more and, unfortunately, that detracted from my enjoyment of this novel. 

The science fiction element of Countdown was surprisingly refreshing, and I found myself craving more backstory, if only to fit these puzzle pieces together and better understand the story. We weren't offered much in terms of world-building though, so our view is rather sheltered, and we're forced to see in one direction only. Kira was a strong character, for the most part, though I feel as though she flip-flopped a lot, and a semblance of consistency for her persona would lend well to the overall plot. I'm at an impasse with Brogan because, unfortunately, I felt as though he fell into that time-honoured cliche of "hot, misunderstood boy must defy his carefully-crafted murderous character in order to survive and get the girl." It was disappointing because, had he deviated from the norm in that respect, I could have easily become more invested in his and Kira's plight.

Overall, Countdown was a quick and engaging read, but it was not without its flaws. I love the premise of the novel, and I hope to see more from the author that, perhaps, steps a bit more outside this comfort zone. I give it a 2.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian novels and science fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Great review. This book sounds perfect for people who crave a Hunger Games read-alike. It drives me nuts when novels are just to similar or don't reach their full potential. I'm glad it was gripping nonetheless. That means the author must be pretty good then! Thanks for putting this book on my radar.

    1. First off, I am so glad to see you were able to get to my site haha the domain has been down ALL day. It's now a .org...blergh. Anyhoo, yeah. It's not a bad book, but it could have been SO much more, you know?

  2. It's such a shame this novel borrows so my from The Hunger Games! Every dystopian, lately, sounds like the same book over and over again with the classically terrible government and what-not. Anyway, thanks for guinea-pigging this one, Melissa - I'll be skipping it for sure.

  3. I actually really like the idea of a countdown being the one element that serves as a catalyst in a book! It seems like that would add extra intensity to the story and pressure on the characters, and it would a curious thing to see how it plays out. However, I'm not so happy that it reminded you too closely of The Hunger Games, as that would personally bother me a lot.

  4. Just FYI, Countdown was originally published a few months before The Hunger Games; the parallels are coincidental. In fact it was reviewed very favorably in comparison at the time. It was an adult novel, and this edition was refreshed and revised as a young adult fiction novel for the TEEN program. The publication information is listed on the copyright page.

    Thank you for reading and reviewing!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I always do my very best to return the favour :)

Please note that this blog is an award-free zone!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover