Spoiler Warning: Fire Will Fall (Harcourt, 2010, 485 pp in Arc, YA) is the sequel to Streams of Babel, which most definitely should be read first. Streams of Babel is a real humdinger of a suspenseful page turner, which I highly recommend (a great one, for instance, for Mother Reader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge). So don't read this review if you don't want to know the ending to the first book! Once you've read that one, you are going to want to read Fire Will Fall.
At the end of Streams of Babel, the three high school kids and one young man who had survived the terrorist attempt to poison them via the public water system have been moved to a "safe" house to complete their recovery from the mutated virus with which they have been infected (or not). The two hacker genius kids who helped crack that particular plot are ostensibly safe as well in New York city, recovering from their own nasty terrorist inflicted virus.
But not all the scientists behind that first plot were captured. As Shazad and Tyler, quarantined in New York, continue to apply their computer skills to finding them, it becomes clear that an even more horrible plot is being being hatched, with a virus more vicious than before. And the "safe house" isn't looking quite so safe anymore.
Meanwhile, the other four young people, all falling in and out of sickness as their original takes its course, are marooned together. Tensions build, friendships are strained, and new feelings for each other emerge in a hothouse of emotional intensity. As the terrorists move closer and ready their new designer virus, the tension grows...until their ostensible victims find in themselves what it takes to confront their own demons, and those lurking outside.
It's gripping and exciting stuff; a real page turner. The story is told in chapters from the points of view of the six young characters, which I think enhances the sense of tension--the reader never relaxes into a particular character, but is instead shunted briskly through differing perspectives. The drawback to this approach is that I found some characters more interesting and more convincingly drawn than others, so to some extent I was never fully engaged. And because, unavoidably, there is less mystery to the plot than there was in Streams of Babel (the cast of characters are, for the most part, known quantities), it's not quite as enthralling a book as that was.
Despite those caveats, Streams of Fire is an engrossing read, both a coming-of-age story and a fast paced thriller. I'm labeling it science fiction, because the hideously bio engineered virus aren't, I sincerely hope, in existence yet...but it is all disturbingly possible.
Note on age appropriateness--sexual content and violence make this a book for older readers.
(review copy received from the publisher at ALA Midwinter)