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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. It is the fourth book in the "Virals" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The book opens with the Gamemaster's trial, the villain from the third book. Tory and Ben testify against him, and he's found guilty. Because Ben helped the Gamemaster, though not realizing how evil he was, Tory has a difficult time forgiving him. He also told Tory that he wants to be more than friends, but now they don't even talk. Ben no longer attends Bolton Preparatory Academy, an elite and prestigious school, with the others because of his close dealings with the Gamemaster.

Tory, Ben, and two other young men, Shelton and Hi, have been coping for about a year with the effects of a supervirus infection they acquired from contact with Coop, Tory's wolfdog. The supervirus, XPB-19, derived from two strains of parvovirus, rewrote their DNA, resulting in wolf-like powers — glowing eyes, super-human speed, agility and heightened senses — a temporary state they call flaring.

In the previous book, they were able to control their flaring abilities. The Virals, as they call themselves, have become one consciousness — a pack — and they are able to communicate without words when they flare. In Exposure, their flaring comes and goes, and they can't fully control it. Sometimes it fails when they need it the most. They don't know why this has changed.

The creator of the new virus, Karsten, is dead, but the kids found his flash drive. They believe it stores files pertinent to their condition. When not in school, they work to hack the encrypted files.

Chance Claybourne, a wealthy, former classmate, is also working hard to learn more about their secret. Chance discovered all of Karsten's files locked away in his deceased father's private study. He has been studying them to find the truth about Tory's secret.

Amid the Virals' pursuit of the XPB-19 files, a set of twins from school goes missing. After the police get a video demanding a ransom, the case becomes a kidnapping, and the Virals decide they need to use their special abilities to try to find the twins, Peter and Lucy. Within a few days of the twins' disappearance, another school friend named Ella vanishes. Ella is Tory's best friend, and Tory is distraught at her disappearance. She resolves to find the kidnapper. The group is certain the disappearances are connected, and the group works overtime to find clues.

The meager evidence they gather leads them to an old plantation. The four split up to search different areas. Tory finds a barn-like structure and sees the twins through a window. She breaks the glass to enter and to rescue them.

To her surprise, they are angry that she's found them. Tory learns that they faked their kidnapping so their stepfather would have to pay the ransom from their trust fund. He had been stealing money from their fund to pay off gambling debts, so they set him up to look like the kidnapper. They tell Tory that they hired Detective Hawfield to help them execute their plan. Hawfield, however, has his own idea about how the plan should play out, so he kidnapped Ella for extra insurance.

When Hawfield realizes that Tory knows everything, he plans to kill her and Ella. The twins escape while Tory fights off Hawfield using her flaring abilities. But when her powers suddenly stop, she collapses, and the detective imprisons her with Ella in a dungeon. The other Virals arrive at the barn shortly after Hawfield and Tory are gone.

Tory tries to conceal her superhuman ability from Ella even as she flares and is able to jump up to grab a chain far above them. From the chain, she swings to a tunnel that leads to another chamber. Tory plans to find a way out and get help to free Ella from the dungeon.

As she tries to find a way out of the tunnel, she sees Hawfield and runs from him. She eventually finds stairs and is able to emerge from the underground dungeons. She bolts into the woods and meets up with the other Virals, who coincidentally are creeping through the trees, along with Coop. Hawfield follows close behind and shoots at them.

Ben has been holding back from fully being a part of the group because of the guilt he feels for helping the Gamemaster. He chooses to no longer hold back. (His holding back is what has kept the Virals from being in control of their flaring.) The four teens commit to work together fully. They hold hands and flare. They're in perfect unison and know what to do. The dog sees Hawfield, Hawfield realizes he's outnumbered, and the dog takes him down. The Virals get his gun from him. Tory puts in a new round. They handcuff him.

Next they free Ella, hauling Hawfield with them. In a surprise move, Hawfield uses a hidden key to free himself from the handcuffs. He gets the HK45 from Tory and aims it at her. Just as he is about to shoot, Hawfield falls to his death through some rotted wood planks covering one of the dungeons.

The twins have called the police, and they show up just after Hawfield's fall. Tory lets the commissioner know that the Virals do not want any credit. To prevent publicity about them and their heroic actions, the police commissioner tells the community that the police solved the case.

Meanwhile, Chance has learned the truth about XPB-19 from Karsten's research papers. When the Virals sneak into his office, he surprises them and tells them what he knows. He offers his company's entire medical resources to help them in their research to find out what the virus has done to their DNA. The Virals are stunned when Chance's eyes glow red, revealing that he also has the virus. They learn that he, unfortunately, had ordered some experiments with the virus and that's how he got it.

Christian Beliefs

On the witness stand in court, Tory manipulates the jury by saying their lives were saved when a grate fell, and it was a gift from God. Tory says a silent prayer for the twins. Mr. Gable is an alderman at St. Michael's church. Shelton hopes for divine intervention to help him hack the data files.

Other Belief Systems

A couple of times, Tory says the gods were kind. She comments on having a sixth sense. When they flare, the kids' minds merge, and power flows between them. At those times, they can communicate wordlessly with each other and the dog. Coop, the wolfdog, calls Tory sister-friend. Tory also is able to communicate with two German shepherds she's never met. Hawfield believes Tory is an evil spirit when he sees her eyes glow. He calls her a demon and a she-devil.

Searching for clues to the kidnapping of the twins, the teens visit a Wicca and astrology store named Fairy Dust — "for pagans and non-pagans" its online description says. The author provides an extensive and detailed description of the interior of the store, listing book sections, titles, genres, etc.

The manager of the shop gives the kids an extended description of things pertaining to tarot cards and the zodiac signs. Generally, they are "creeped-out" by the shop and the witch who runs it. Hi is upset when she tells him he is not an Aries, after all. The kids argue about astrology after leaving the store. They, and later the detective, dismiss it all as New Age hocus-pocus.

Authority Roles

Kit Howard is Tory's father. His girlfriend, Whitney, lives with them because a hurricane destroyed her home. Tory does not like her and calls her a bimbo, though not to her face. Whitney is a significant person for Kit, and they live as though married. Since Tory had the master bedroom as her room, she had to switch bedrooms so that her dad and his girlfriend could sleep in the larger room. Whitney assumes a parental role, reminding Tory of curfew times and interfering in her social life. The parents of the four teens do not appear to be involved in their lives, but they are supportive when the kids go to the police with information on the kidnapping case. Hi's mom hits him on the back of the head. Mr. Gable, the father of the kidnapped twins, has a gambling problem.


God's name is used with thank, oh my, for the love of, dear and hope to, and Lord is used with oh and knows. Jesus' name is used alone and with sweet. There is repeated use of coarse or objectionable language such as d--n, b--tard, a--, crap, butt, h---, sonofab--ch, screwed, frick, dummy, jerk, doofus, pee myself, BS, pr--k, stupid redneck, little cuss, hussy, dope, p---ed, ball-breaker, b--ches, douchebag, lethal snot rocket, dirtbag and toolbag. There is frequent use of the words frick, freaking and crap.

Tory spears Hawfield with a flagpole, thrusting the eagle headpiece into his stomach; blood spreads from his shirt. He gun-whips Peter across the face; blood runs between his fingers as he lies on the floor. Coop attacks Hawfield, and blood runs down Hawfield's leg and pools in his shoes. Ben kicks Hawfield in the stomach. Hawfield shoots his HK45 at Tory several times.


Tory admires a poster of Ryan Gosling and refers to him as the World's Sexiest Man. Tory's friend Ella tells her that Jason Taylor is hot and is really into Tory. She teases Tory that she could use some Taylor-touching time to ease her tension. Ben wants to be more than just friends with Tory. She surprises Ben with a quick kiss on the lips, and her ears burn when she later recalls the kiss. Ben embraces Tory as she cries.

When a security guard apprehends the four of them, Hi says that his mother will shoot him first and then kick him in his man parts. Whitney wears a tight-fitting cocktail dress, and Tory comments that Whitney frequently pushes boundaries in clothing choices. Whitney and Tory's father live together. Tory says searching the Internet with "Old Man + Snake + Toga" is not something she recommends.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at ThrivingFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Ben and Tory lie under oath to protect the Virals' secret. Hi steals a photocopy of evidence from the police when they tell Tory that she may not see the evidence. The kids lie to their parents and skip school in order to pursue their own crime investigations. The Virals break into just about every building or business they encounter: the Gable home, a computer server room at the aquarium, the police station, the Loggerhead Research Institute, and so on. The police commissioner, taking advice from 15-year-old Tory, agrees to lie about the circumstances of the kidnappings and death of one of his detectives.

Disrespect: Tory's dealings with police and lawyers are highly disrespectful. She refers to the police as clowns, bozos, jokers and the defense attorney as an a--, dirtbag or buffoon. One of the boys calls Captain Corcoran Captain Crunch.

Drugs/Alcohol: Kit drinks wine, and guests have champagne and high balls at an art show. Tory has a breakdown when her friend Ella goes missing. Later she refers to someone having to give her a second blue pill and would have to check under her tongue, suggesting that there had been a first blue pill. Some teen boys smoke in the high school parking lot; Tory calls them stoners.

Firearms: Hawfield wields a Heckler and Koch HK45 that he fires at Tory a number of times.

Media references: Peter has a "killer" collection of CDs: The White Stripes, Nine Inch Nails, Death Cab for Cutie. Mention of the Word With Friends app.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

11 and up


Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs






Record Label



G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, The Penguin Group.


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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