Virals: Book 1 Book Poster Image

Virals: Book 1



Exciting story of murder-solving heroine with superpowers.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Virals combines mystery with action and science, and introduces kids to various genres of literature and history. References to the Great Depression and Vietnam will encourage kids to understand events of the past. Readers will also learn interesting facts about archeology, forensics, anatomy, and animals.  

Positive messages

A major theme in Virals is: Be true to yourself and others will not only accept you but admire you more for it. And, although it can be difficult, doing what's right pays dividends in the end.

Positive role models

The main character, Tory Brennan, is a strong, smart, and independent heroine. She rises above the unfortunate hand she is dealt. And, instead of wallowing in self-pity, Tory is an optimistic and positive influence on those around her.


The plot of Virals revolves around two murder mysteries. Teens are chased and shot at by adults who attempt to kill them. These scenes are always set at night, which intensifies the excitement and may frighten younger children. There are fistfights and some blows between a young girl and an adult male.

Not applicable

People are referred to as "bitch," "skank" or "ass."  "Bulls--t" is used twice.


Virals is chock-full of labels. Kids wear everything from Adidas to Vera Wang and drive around in BMWs.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References are made to adults smoking cigarettes, but it's not glamorized, and the health risks are duly noted.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Virals revolves around two murder mysteries. The text includes descriptive scenes filled with forensic terminology, providing a realistic element that may be too scary for young readers. Four teenagers attempt to solve a mystery on their own and excavate the area where a body is buried, and this leads to the murder of a major character. Teens are chased and shot at by adults who attempt to kill them, and there are fistfights and scenes of schoolyard bullying, where kids are called names. Virals is the first installment of a multipart series.

What's the story?

Tory Brennan is a teenage girl who (due to unfortunate circumstance) is forced to move to a new town with her estranged father. Living on Morris Island in Charleston, NC, isn’t so bad if you can afford a Vera Wang designer dress and a brand new BMW. But for outcasts like Tory and her three best nerdy guy friends, the island offers something rare; it's the location of a world-renown research institute. Although the four teens are the poor kids on campus, they form a bond through their shared passion for science and the outdoors. Tory and the boys can't get enough of exploring all the island's backwoods have to offer. Unfortunately, one innocent adventure quickly becomes an extremely dangerous journey when the crew discovers the bones of a girl missing since 1969. As if a murder mystery isn't enough to take on, Tory also releases a contagious virus after breaking into the Loggerhead Island Research Institute, which alters the DNA of her and her comrades. This alteration leaves the kids with hypersensitive senses and superhuman strength. To solve the mystery and save their own lives, the teens will have to figure out how to activate these powers at crucial moments -- or risk losing everything.

Is it any good?


VIRALS is a thrilling ride with short chapters that continue to pick up speed. The book proves that author Kathy Reichs is more than a great novelist, she's also a real-life forensic anthropologist (and inspiration for the TV series Bones), who reveals all sorts of details involved in solving murder mysteries. Readers are taken through the research process and given precise tips on bone identification. Kids will be intrigued as they are introduced to the world of forensics.

Parents will be pleased that this novel exceeds all expectations of what a reader is looking for in a heroine. Tory Brennen encompasses the charming innocence of a young girl who, instead of being completely boy crazed, is passionate about animals, the environment, and politics. It's a refreshing change to encounter a YA novel that does not end with a love triangle in the first installment. The only relationship that develops here is the touching bond between Tory and her wild wolfpup, Coop.

Families can talk about...

  • Familes can talk about the popularity of books and TV shows about solving crimes by examining bones and dead bodies -- like CSI and Bones. Why do people find this work so fascinating?

  • Parents and kids can discuss bullying. What should you do you see another person being bullied, or are a victim of bullying yourself?

  • Parents can also discuss the proper actions to take if you've witnessed a crime.

Book details

Author:Kathy Reichs
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:November 2, 2010
Number of pages:464
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 15
Available on:Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, Kindle

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Educator and Parent Written bycarleesoto March 25, 2014


We thought this book was filled with great science and research scenes. However, the inappropriate language of the main character bothered us in elementary. We do not think this book is the best choice for a 9 year old. We thought it best for 14 years old due to the language... which by the way takes away from the main character's intelligence.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written bygilly_boy February 24, 2013

Dog and mystery lovers will adore this book.

It's hard to explain but I like this book, it's captivating. Plus a mix of dog so anyone that's a dog lover and into murder mystery will like this. In this book, it does a kinda dominance thing, if you look at animals in the wild the female is always in charge, and the kids actually display that instinct. Even though Tory is the youngest of the group, she's the one in charge; in one moment she really shows it, the others followed orders right away. As for the plot, it does go in pretty deep. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read and find out.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism
Teen, 13 years old Written byFelicitous Freedom April 9, 2015

Great Book

I picked up this series after hearing about Kathy Reich's amazing work, but looking for something a little bit lighter than her adult novels. I came across this gem, and have simply fallen in love with the series. The book is centred around Tory Brennan, the great niece of Tempe Brennan, the protagonist of Kathy Reich's adult novels. Tory is a 14 year old girl, so as you can imagine, she uses language and actions appropriate for a person of her age. Which isn't anything bad. There isn't too much bad language, but I wouldn't pass it on to a 9 year old, say. The book itself (and the rest of the series) is lighter in tone than Kathy Reich's other work, but can be a little on the grim side at points. I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models