The Monster Librarian Presents:
Reviews of Zombie Fiction
While zombies are popular in adult fiction and popular culture zombies are found in books, graphic novels, movies, and video games. In the past few years there has been an increase in young adult zombie titles being published where the zombies range from being relatively benign to being just as hungry and deadly as their adult counterparts.
Zombie Youth: Book 2: Borrowed Time by H.E.Goodhue*New Review
Severed Press, 2013
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition
Zombie Youth: Borrowed Time is a masterful example of the way a work can defy target audience and genre: a true crossover for fans of horror, armageddon, and coming of age (with zombies). By intertwining several survival factions, each with a predictable agenda and hierarchy, Goodhue realistically emphasizes the strengths and shortcomings of several generations. Thus, he captures sympathy and animosity from any reader’s perspective. These various groups use natural, reasonable, age appropriate ways as they create their own comfort and safety zones, but eventually it is apparent to all that the only way to survive will be to construct a new paradigm and work together.
Dealing with more than just survival and the horrors of zombie carnage, Goodhue proposes philosophical discussions about which learned social behaviors humans will reject in favor of survival instincts, and which we’re not willing to part with. Some characters hold tighter to cooperative strategies, others feel stronger alone when faced with danger, and still others take every opportunity to seize power. I found this analysis of human nature to be interesting and realistic, definitely adding credence to the apocalyptic plot, which is necessarily a stretch for the reader.
Book one of the series, Zombie Youth, Playground Politics, led the reader along a complex zombie destruction path that ended with an introduction to a mysterious sect; a true “other” which both chilled and intrigued. This sect, headed by a uniquely obscure and deeply threatening leader becomes the focal point in book 2. The other survivors must unite, despite their desire to promote their individual agendas. Goodhue has created a unique enemy, and one that is deceptively simple, making her all the more frightening.
The series is gripping. The years between books have definitely added polish to Goodhue’s style and handling of complex human interaction. The gore is unique and extremely graphic, and verbal tension is palpable. I prefer a bit more comic relief in my horror, but enough exists in his work to cast this series into a really good read for those who love of complexity in plot and character. Highly recommended for readers with a strong stomach, ages 14 and up.
Contains: Graphic zombie gore, profanity, mild sex.
Reviewed by Sheila Shedd
Zom-B: Underground by Darren Shan
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 1, 2013)
Available: New, Used, E-Book
Zom-B: Underground is the second book in Darren Shan’s most recent teen series. In this volume, B, the novel’s protagonist, wakes in a room in an underground military compound, with the mindless dead getting demolished by weapon wielding marauders. B, now a zombie, finds that she is different than most other zombies in that she still has her personality and ability to reason. She is with another group of teen zombies who can reason, and they are being tested and experimented by the human military. Events quickly unravel and B finds she has more questions than answers.
Shan writes a blood-soaked, fast-paced narrative, with the action and gore that would be appreciated by any zombie fan. Beyond that, there is some good character development and storytelling. B still struggles with prejudice and finds herself on the other end as a zombie. Shan introduces us to the world after the zombie attack, but leaves plenty of unknowns leaving readers hungrily waiting for the next book in the series to consume. There are a growing number of YA zombie novels now, and Shan delivers one with punch. The book is highly recommended for both public libraries and school media center. The next book in the series is Zom-B: City
Contains: violence and gore
Review by The Monster Librarian
Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry *New Review
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011
Dust & Decay is the second book in a young adult series, and picks up right after Rot & Ruin. Benny and Tom Imura leave the town they once called home, with Nix Riley, Lilah, and Lou Chong, to track down the mysterious jet that they saw at the end of Rot & Ruin. The boys don’t get far before they find more trouble than they expected, with dangers including wildlife that has escaped from a zoo, the teeming undead, and a new zombie hunter/gang leader named White Bear, who has a score to settle with the Imuras.
Maberry has created a welcome niche in young adult zombie books, where zombies still want to devour the living, but also presenting a balancing philosophy about how to treat and deal with the undead. Maberry keeps the action flowing but also takes the time to continue to develop his characters and their relationships with one another. It is a delicate balancing act that he does very well. It is easy to see why the book has ended up being a finalist for the Young Adult category of the Stoker Awards, and it is a must have for any young adult library collection. Highly recommended.
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry*New Review
Simon and Schuster, 2011
Available: New, Used, Library Binding, paperback, audio, e-book
I don't generally read YA novels but I am aware that there have been a lot of darker novels geared toward teens. While this not the first YA zombie novel but it is the first one read by this reviewer. I think this is an important title for YA librarians to get their hands on. It is a coming of age novel, and works on that level, but of course, its main narrative follows the traditional zombie tropes.
The story is centered on Benny Imura, a zombie apocalypse surivior living in a small fenced off village. His whole young life has been since 'First Night,' when society collapsed. His parents are dead and he has been raised by his brother Tom, a zombie bounty hunter.
The interesting and original aspects of the novel come mostly from big brother Tom, who is a hero to most, but nothing special to Benny. In this village, at age fifteen, your rations get cut if you don't work, and Benny can't find a job. Benny finally starts training under his brother to hunt zombies. Tom gets paid a bounty to find loved ones who are zombies and respectfully end the misery. Once out beyond the fence, though, Benny realizes things are not exactly the way he always believed.
Rot & Ruin is my second Maberry novel, and both were zombie novels. His adult novel Patient Zero is a fantastic hard-boiled techno-thriller zombie novel that I really enjoyed. I knew Maberry was a excellent storyteller so I expected this novel to be good. Compared to the intense storytelling in Patient Zero, I found this novel to be stripped down to the very basics. Still, there are plenty of original ideas and plot twists. I think this novel is very good, and doesn’t condescend to its target audience. I highly recommend it for young adult readers. Rot & Ruin has some violence and gore, but the language is clean and the romance is very innocent. I think more sophisticated horror readers , and those ready to move on to adult horror, will enjoy Patient Zero more.
Contains: Violence and gore
Reviewed by: David Agranoff
Zom-B by Darren Shan*New Review
Little, Brown, Books for Young Readers, 2012
Available: Hardcover and multiformat ebook editions
Zom-B is the first title in a new series of the same name, by teen horror master Darren Shan. B is a teen in England, with a troubled life, with an abusive, racist father. When a small town in Ireland is decimated by zombies, B’s father dismisses the reported attacks as a ploy by the media. Soon B discovers that that zombie attack in Ireland was not an isolated incident, and that B’s world is about to change for the worse.
It is fascinating to see the specter of racism brought forward in a zombie book. Daniel Waters’ Generation Dead series approaches it with the racism of the living against the relatively innocent reanimated. In Zom-B the zombies are ruthless killing machines looking to devour the living; it is the naked racism of B’s father against immigrants, the Irish, and anyone who has a different skin color that is made real, and that impacts B and how B reacts to people. It should be noted that B is not presented as an angel, committing minor crimes here and there, struggling internally with racism that permeated B’s household.
Shan doesn’t hold anything back in describing the bloody and gory zombie attacks. Zom-B is a testament to Shan’s remarkable skill as a writer, as he challenges the reader’s preconceptions of everything, including B. While providing necessary back story, Shan keeps the pace up, and then the action explodes at the end.Highly recommended for middle and high school libraries and YA collections. Future books in the series is Zom-B Underground and Zom-B: City to be released in 2013.
Contains: Gore, violence, racism
Zombie Youth: Book 1: Playground Politics by H.D. Goodhue
Severed Press, 2012
Available: New Paperback
At this point, zombie literature has moved from cool reboot, to bona-fide horror category, to glutted genre. In fact, I’m pretty sure enough nagging doubt has been cleverly addressed by authors that we are convinced that some virus is, in fact, out there, and it’s only a question of when the dead will rise and eat us.
Can readers tolerate one more book on the subject? Yes, we can, if it’s a good one. Zombie Youth: Playground Politics is the first in a new Young Adult series that successfully strains the curd from the milk-toast avalanche of zombie lit and makes a nice, stinky cheese from it. Goodhue’s take on his subject twists it just enough to set the work apart. In a super-creepy way, he makes the end of days even more likely--almost logical. All we have to know to enjoy and agree with Goodhue’s view is the established Z-lore--a rampant, mutated virus begins the trouble, the infected will stop at nothing to tear the flesh from the bones of the living, and your group has to fortify and hunker-down. But in this case, additional scary mutations and a bit of biblical history expand the story and significantly change the game.
Goodhue’s courageous depiction of a hostile faction of live religious zealots adds a bold dimension that engages a whole new set of philosophical and tactical scenarios, and he’s on the right track to convince us. Chances are, we will be fighting each other in the end zone, since we are already fighting each other in the “real” world. Whichever group harnesses the undead will gain a huge advantage over those who merely hide out, brain-smash one monster at a time, and scavenge supplies.
Goodhue’s voice and style are flawlessly aimed at teen readers, so long as those readers can tolerate graphically described visceral gore. Fortunately, much of the gross stuff is tempered by wry humor that lifts the whole book onto a higher level, nearly to adult cross-over. There is just enough romance to make the story realistic without burdening readers with actual sexual tension or scenario, and thankfully, there are few or no drug references. Also a bonus is that adults are kept right where they should be in a Young Adult work: useful and supportive, but subordinate to the real heroes. The characters are interesting and, though typical, are written with depth and individuality. Zombie Youth promises a strong, likable, and varied group of believable players for horror fans to follow through the adventures of the inevitable post-apocalypse. Highly recommended for ages 14 and up.
Contains: Graphic zombie gore, profanity.
Reviewed by: Sheila Shedd
Dead Girl's Blog by Donna Burgess*New Review
E-Volve Books, 2011
Available: Multiformat digital
With a plethora of both zombie fiction and self-published author samplers popping up, it's often hard to cut through the chaff to get to the good stuff. Dead Girl's Blog is the good stuff; two emotionally satisfying zombie tales that don't have to resort to the weary format of plucky survivors getting picked off one at a time. Burgess’ characters stand off the page, reaching out and giving an often-missing soul to zombie stories.
There are only two short stories here, “Dead Girl's Blog” and “Under a Blanket of Blue”. But it's a perfect short read for those looking for a distraction in a waiting room, before bed, or on a car or plane trip. Highly recommended for quality and tasty pricing.
Contains: Language, sex, violence
Reviewed by: Michele Lee
The Pretty Dead by David Martin Stack*New Review
Small Change Press, 2011
Available: New paperback
The Pretty Dead is a gory, suspenseful read for teens who are music minded, really listen to the poetry of lyrics, and enjoy some dark comic relief. The main character, Blake, inventor of the virtual rock band Posterband, is one of several uniquely described co-protagonists, all of whom are sympathetically written. Blake directly addresses the reader, and so engages and invests us very effectively. The horror elements are well balanced by Blake’s sister “M”, the treehugger, and her very valid concerns about a mysterious corporation and its involvement in the terrifying events building around them.
David Stack weaves several parallel themes into a single, brisk plot. Beginning with a kidnapped loved one, he establishes an intimate group of cool, music-minded friends who face nightmarish episodes with the reanimated dead, bloodthirsty rockers, and zombie-like minions. Behind it all is an untouchable evil corporate entity, misplaced trust, and a complicated conspiracy. Climaxing the action is the ultimate showdown: a battle of the bands, accessible only to monsters and the hip crowd.
The vinyl-collecting Blake experiments with the possibility of achieving fame by creating and promoting every aspect of a band except original music, and this speaks directly to a generation of art clipping, sound-biting, remixing, teens. An actual website for Posterband (www.posterband.com) that includes a playlist of music from the book, member bios and a merch table where fans of the book can buy real t-shirts for the virtual band, adds to the readability and authenticity of Stack’s book. A portion of the proceeds for the book goes to children’s literacy programs. Recommended for grade 7 and up.
Contains: brief cannibalism, dismemberment, mild torture, not too graphic.
Reviewed by: Sheila Shedd
Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago*New Review
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2011
Available: Paperback, Kindle ebook
The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses is a first book in a wonderful new series by Ty Drago. In it we meet young Will Richter. Will’s father Karl was a cop in the Philadelphia police department until his untimely death a year ago. Now that Will’s twelve, he’s started to notice something strange; people all around him- his neighbor, assistant principal, and math teacher- are all dead. Yet they move and talk. When it’s discovered that he can see them as actual dead people, the ‘corpses’ attack, and Will is rescued by Helene. Helene takes him to the Undertakers, a splinter cell of freedom fighters who are resisting the rise of the ‘corpses’ in question. These are not zombies; those tend to be slow and stupid. ‘Corpses’ are very smart, strong and capable, and they have a plan to eventually dominate the world.
Will must come to terms with the new reality of being able to see the ‘corpses’ – only one adult could ever identify a ‘corpse’ for what it was, and that was his dad – and learn to accept his place among the Undertakers. Will the undertakers stop the ‘corpses’? Will Kenny Booth run for Mayor? Find out by reading this book! I found this book to be a quick read, and really quite fun. It had its serious moments, but it was definitely a book the entire family could read. Highly recommended for fans of zombies, action, adventure, Philadelphia, and fun reads, middle and high school libraries, and public library YA collections.
Contains: violence and slight gruesome imagery.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
Zombies Don't Cry: A Living Dead Love Story by Rusty Fischer
Medallion Press, 2011
A stray lightning strike burned out Maddy's life, but not her existence, and after a few hours of unconsciousness she wakes up undead. Not that her life was wonderful (or terrible) to begin with, but now that she's a zombie it's definitely more complicated. And so are the things she wished could change—namely her pseudo-relationship with jock cutie Stamp, and the mysterious deaths of her fellow students ,with all signs to Maddy being next, living or not.
Zombies Don't Cry is a fun read with a true vein of darkness and tons of engaging characters. Highly recommended for public and private YA collections, its pacing and conflict make it a wonderful option to keep readers interested and amused in an increasingly disappointing fiction landscape.
Contains: language, violence, brain-munching
Reviewed by: Michele Lee
The Zombie Handbook: An Essential Guide to Zombies and, More Importantly, How to
Avoid Them by Dr. Robert Curran*New Review
Barron's Educational Series, 2011
Thanks to AMC’s The Walking Dead, interest in zombies has
risen once again! In The Zombie Handbook,
Curran gives background on zombie lore, ways to identify a zombie, and how
to avoid a zombie attack.
For example, in Voodoo beliefs, the word “zombie” doesn’t refer to the walking dead at all, but instead a serpent that is the symbol of the chief of Voodoo gods. It is actually in places like Haiti and the southern states in the US that zombie lore has taken hold, largely due to the slavery once common in these areas. It is said that slaves brought with them tales of the walking dead, stories that frightened their masters.
How does one identify a zombie? The stiff, halting walk might help, as would the smell. Additionally, one of the sure signs a creature is a zombie is its lack of communication. Zombies are unable to answer a direct question, only able to utter a few words. They also have a vacant & “lost” stare.
The best way to protect
oneself from a zombie attack is to avoid them. When this is impossible, there
are charms called gris-gris that can protect the wearer. Also, as with
most other “supernatural” beings, a ring of salt stops zombies, as does fresh,
running water (as in a river or stream, not a bathtub!)
The Zombie Handbook also distinguishes between the types of zombies. In Jewish lore, the Golem, a figure made of clay, protected groups of Jewish people. In Ireland, the marbh bheo (night-walking dead) walk freely among the living at certain times of the year, seeking vengeance for past grievances. Others are granted a night to enjoy things they had in life.
Curran also provides some historical perspective. Paramount to the existence of zombies are zombie masters, those who had the power to raise the dead, including John Domingo who lived in Charleston, SC in the 1880s; Dr. Buzzard, who lived in the Low Country of South Carolina in the mid 1900s; and the most famous “Voodoo Queen”, the zombie mistress of New Orleans, Marie Laveau. These individuals had the power to raise the dead and provide other charms using magical powders and potions.
The Zombie Handbook educates the reader on every aspect of the walking dead, through vivid, colorful illustrations and photographs as well as noteworthy facts. It is guaranteed to be a hit for any fan of horror. Highly recommended.
Warning: Some of the images can be a bit frightening to young children.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Lawrence
The Dead by Charlie Higson*New Review
Available: New and e-book
The Dead is the prequel to Higson’s book The Enemy. Unlike books in most series, this book can be read as a stand-alone. As a prequel, there are no references to Higson’s previous work, which is refreshing. The book is once again set in present day London, and follows a small group of survivors from a boarding school as they make their way across the city to safety. Ultimately, they become the Tower kids found in The Enemy.
Higson’s writing style is very simple and elegant. Paragraphs are kept short and easy to understand. He keeps the suspense going at every turn, making the reader unable to put the book down. With talk of more books in the series, Higson is destined to become a legend among zombie authors equal to Brooks and Matheson. I would highly recommend this book.
Contains: Violence, gore.
Reviewed by Denize Toms.
The Enemy by Charlie Higson*New Review
Available New and used/e-book
The Enemy is a unique twist on the zombie survival story. In this version, only people over the age of 14 are infected, leaving children as the survivors of the new world. Set in present-day London, the story focuses on a group of children known as the Waitroses, surviving in a supermarket. When the children learn of other survivors living in Buckingham Palace, they trek across the city to join up. Along the way they battle “grown-ups” as well as each other. Upon their arrival at the palace, they find things aren’t the utopia they had expected. The Waitroses’ idea of survival differs starkly from the ideas of those there already, who are looking to become rulers of London. There is also a sideline story about Small Sam, who was taken by “grown-ups”, and his battle to make his way back to the Waitroses.
Unlike many books in the zombie genre, the writing style is very straightforward and it is easy to follow along. A plus to the book is that paragraphs are kept short, making it easy for readers to keep up, and hard to put down. Higson is not shy about losing core characters, which adds an air of suspense to the story. The moral to the story is quite clear. Children are survivors, tougher and smarter that we adults give them credit for. I recommend this book for adults and young adults. It is sure to be a classic in the dystopian genre.
Contains: Violence, gore, cannibalism
Reviewed by: Denize Toms.
Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black*New Review
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010
Available: New - Hardcover , audiobook, and Kindle and Nook ebook
It began as an Internet debate on the blogs of YA authors Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. Which one is cooler-zombies or unicorns? Justine announced that she was pro-zombie and anti-unicorn, and Holly stood up for the awesomeness of unicorns versus the nastiness of zombies. The discussion grew animated enough that Holly and Justine recruited writers to form Team Unicorn and Team Zombie and published an anthology. The resulting stories, some about zombies and some about unicorns (clearly marked), are unconventional, imaginative, sometimes funny, and often disturbing. Each story is preceded by an introduction and bickering between Justine and Holly about the pros and cons of zombies and unicorns. My favorites include Alaya Dawn Johnston’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, a powerful, terrifying, somehow sweet, and ultimately doomed, love story from a zombie’s point of view; Naomi Novik’s “Purity Test”, a wisecracking urban fantasy that shatters the stereotypes of unicorns and virgins; Maureen Johnson’s “Children of the Revolution”, which veers between creepiness and humor as a college student babysitting for a rock star discovers the hard way that the children are monsters; and Meg Cabot’s “Princess Prettypants”, an entertaining send-up of the hearts-and-rainbows unicorns everyone thinks of when unicorns come up in conversation, with a great revenge scenario to boot. All the stories are strong, though, and I came away with a new appreciation for both zombies and unicorns. The only thing missing was a story with an actual battle between them: in the battle between zombies and unicorns, who really WOULD win? Highly, highly recommended for YA collections and high school library media centers. Ages 14 and up.
Contains: language, violence, gore, bestiality, homosexuality, drug use, zombie cannibalism, animal cruelty, childbirth.
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski
I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked it by Adam Selzer
Random House Children's, 2010
Available: New, used and digital
Ali Rhodes is the quintessential teenage curmudgeon. Music reviewer for her school paper and notorious snark queen she's the last person to fall for trends and scams--or in love. But at a local show she meets a guy who is tall, Goth and handsome, and who knows how to sing with soul. It's just too bad Doug is a zombie.
While it starts off as a snarky, humorous, paranormal tale, in the end, I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It makes a statement on the social pressures teens (and everyone really) face. (It manages to make fun of a lot of the trends in YA fiction as well.) Ali thinks she's highly resistant to the fall-in-love-with-a-vampire deals, but finds herself reconsidering the rest of her life when her guidance counselor pushes “converting” on her and Doug's personal limitations are revealed.
I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It is witty, funny, and meaningful- the only problem is that it ends too soon. Highly recommended, especially for school or public collections with a lot of paranormal YA readers.
Contains: mild language, hinted adult situations
Reviewed by: Michele Lee
Dead: Passing Strange
by Daniel Waters
The latest installment in the Generation Dead series changes focus from Phoebe Kendall to Karen DeSonne, an undead teen who actually manages to pass as a living girl. We pick up where the last story ended. Waters delves into Karen’s past and reveals how she died and also how she is different from the other zombies. Karen wants to uncover what really happened with the murder of a lawyer by zombies. Karen’s biggest lead is Pete Martinsburg, who has come back on a mission for the Reverend Nathan Mathers to hunt down the remaining zombies in town.
Waters is able to keep the overall story arc going forward and yet takes the time to really flesh out Karen, one of the more interesting characters in the series. We also learn more about Pete Martinsburg and what drives his hatred towards zombies, which takes him a step out of being a mindless foil for the zombie population. Passing Strange is an engrossing read, and it is easy just to set yourself down and get lost in the story. Waters has created a fascinating world of the dead teens coming to life, and lets them tell their tale. In an ever-growing world of zombie titles, the Generation Dead series stands out, with great storytelling and interesting characters. Highly recommended.Contains: reference to suicide and homosexuality, some violence.
by Stacey Jay
Karen tragically died from a major fall from the top of the cheerleading pyramid. Even more tragically, she has discovered that she is a genetic zombie and now has to live out the rest of her days slurping down animal brains and fearing maggot infestations. She's even transferred to DEAD high, where supposedly she'll learn how to cope with her new, long-lasting, but secret, un-life.
But high school, even undead high school, is cruel, and to make bad things worse, a full day into Karen's new life a body of a student is found with her brain harvested by an unknown bad guy that just happens to be lurking around the school. Now perky, driven Karen is taking it upon herself to ferret out the killer before something really, really bad happens.
My So-Called Death weaves back and forth over the line between strong characterization and too much. As amusing as Karen's ultramodern and perky inner monologue is, it, and the lack of strong characters outside of the lead, her best friend, and her boyfriend, is bound to annoy some readers who never saw the spirit behind similar tales, like the movies Clueless and Legally Blonde. It's a perky-fun-gruesome mystery, horror-lite in terms of gore, violence and general darkness. But it's not without creepy, and almost-serious scenes, sort of like the dread one would feel at seeing a bedazzled pirate flag on an approaching ship.
As for its value to collections, there's definitely an audience for Jay's kind of
humor. At the very least, adults could enjoy it for all the in-jokes about
iconic 80s and 90s culture.
Contains: fried brain bites and giant maggots
Review by Michele Lee
Penguin Group, 2009
Mia gets good grades and has an obsession with “Buffy”. Popular kids rarely notice her, so when Rob, the most popular boy in school, asks her out, and then invites her to the prom, she can’t believe it. But Samantha, the popular girl in class, is trying to steal Rob away – and it looks like it is working. Dejected, Mia and her hypochondriac best friend Candice go to visit a creepy old lady who sells herbs and spells to buy a love spell. Mia completes the “love spell” and believes it’s working, but then suddenly everyone is being nice to her, and giving her snacks… and for some reason they all think she smells like roasted chicken. The quiet new boy, Chase, lets Mia know that the spell she cast wasn’t actually a love spell – it is actually slowly turning the whole school into zombies. Mia, Chase, and Candice get to work trying to save their school from a zombie infestation just a week before Prom!
Written for the 12 and up age group, this book is sweet, funny and quite charming. Themes of friendship and childhood relationships run through the book. (Example: just because a guy is popular doesn’t make him the right guy for you.) This book is geared toward girls and plays heavily on the scattered, over-dramatic mindset of high school girls. There is a romantic thread in the book, though it’s by no means in the forefront of the story.
Contains: people with the intention of eating Mia, a kiss, and some name calling of the catty high school girl type.
Review by KDP
In Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary is a teenaged girl who lives in a small village surrounded by a metal fence, all that stands between her village and "the forest of hands and teeth," Mary's name for the seemingly infinite flood of undead which besiege the fences day and night.
The undead are not the only source of anxiety for Mary. She is of an age where she must either marry or join the Sisterhood, the religious order which controls every facet of the villagers's lives. Mary chafes at the restrictions placed upon her by the traditions of the village and the dictates of the Sisterhood. She dreams of the ocean, a place which her mother has told her about, but which many believe to be nothing more than a fairy tale.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a
highly imaginative take on the zombie story and well worth reading. It is an
outstanding example of how a classic monster story can be reimagined as a
complex and original novel. Carrie Ryan's crisp, clear prose has created a
tense, action-packed novel which is difficult to put down. The book is listed as
being for ages fourteen and up and would make an excellent addition to any
library collection for teen readers. Highly recommended.
This review originally appeared in a more extensive form on the Green Man Review Web site.
Review by Kestrell Rath
Generation Dead: Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters
Hyperion Books, 2009
Available: Pre-order (May release)
Kiss of Life picks up where Generation Dead left off. Phoebe Kendall is dealing with the aftermath of the events that caused the death of her best friend Adam, who died protecting her from Pete, a deranged jock upset about Phoebe’s relationship with living-impaired Tommy Williams. Adam has now returned as a zombie, and although he is not yet fully functional, Phoebe has realized she has romantic feelings towards Adam. This creates an awkward love triangle between Phoebe, Adam, and Tommy. In the meantime an anti-zombie group co-opts Pete into joining them and making trouble for the zombie population. Kiss of Life is a continuation of the strong storytelling from Generation Dead. Unlike the first book, though, Kiss of Life moves beyond Phoebe’s experiences to include the impact of the living-impaired and their enemies on a larger scale, throughout the United States. While Phoebe is still the main character, Waters starts to flesh out the other characters, devoting more time to them in this book. As with any sequel, readers will want to know if Kiss of Life is a stand-alone book, or if it’s necessary to read Generation Dead first. In this case, enough of the story is built upon Generation Dead that you really need to read it first. It is likely that we can expect another book as well, as the ending includes enough unknowns to keep fans of the series waiting for the next installment. Highly recommended.
Megan Berry wants a date to Homecoming and a place on the pom squad, but just as everything seems to be coming together, missing memories return and she discovers that she is a Settler. Her job is to help zombies, who rise from the dead to deal with unfinished business, to finally rest in peace. It’s not enough that she’s being followed by the needy undead, though. Someone is using black magic to send bloodthirsty RC’s, or reanimated corpses, after her. Megan has a lot on her plate as she searches for the person behind the RCs, plans for her pom squad tryouts, and works out her feelings for Ethan, another Settler who also happens to be a hot guy. The premise of You are So Undead to Me requires considerable suspension of disbelief. According to the story, Settlers are a secret group, but it’s a challenge to believe that zombies are crawling out of their graves trudging around town in search of a Settler, with nobody the wiser. Still, in spite of this, and although the plot doesn’t make much sense, You are So Undead to Me is a nice mix of romance, mystery, and breathless action that will keep teen girls turning the pages. Readers advisory note: Readers who like this book may also like Zombie Queen of Newbury High or Generation Dead, but are likely to prefer paranormal romance to more hard-edged zombie fiction. Recommended for general YA fiction collections in public libraries and for middle and high school media centers.
Contains: violence, black magic, kissing.
Feiwel and Friends, 2008
When Hannah and her father move into the town of Maplecrest, Hannah finds herself into the familiar role of the “new girl”. Hannah notices that the popular group in her new school are a set of blonde, blue eyed cheerleaders. Lukas, a school misfit, warns Hannah that the cheerleaders are dangerous creatures that hold sway over the entire town. When Hannah is invited to join the cheerleading squad she jumps at the chance to enjoy the benefits of popularity, including the hunky boy friend. What lies underneath the surface, though, isn’t pretty, and once Hannah’s “in,” she may not have an out. Zombie Blondes is an effective little tale of terror that taps into the anxieties that go along with wanting to fit in successfully in high school. It should be noted that Zombie Blondes is much more of a horror tale than many of the other young adult “horror” books. Zombie Blonds is recommended for public and school libraries.
Contains: Violence, a little blood letting
Something is causing teenagers to return from the dead as zombies, or “living impaired.” Unlike traditional zombies, though, Daniel Waters’ “living impaired” creations are simply teens reanimated with varying levels of functionality and ability to communicate. The “living impaired” are not accepted by society at large. They have few rights and can even be killed without penalty. Against this backdrop, we are introduced to Phoebe and Adam, next door neighbors with very different backgrounds- Adam is a star football player and Phoebe is a goth girl. Phoebe develops an interest in a “living impaired” student, Tommy Williams. When Tommy joins the high school football team, he and his friends become targets of a group of football players called the “Pain Crew.” Adam must choose his loyalties and decide how far he will go for friendship.
The characters in Generation Dead are beautifully layered. Although it seems at first like Waters is depending on common stereotypes, as the book continues, the characters’ surfaces are peeled away, revealing much more complex personalities and motivations than a reader would initially expect. The plot is gripping and moves at a good pace. Readers will want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next, and the ending is extraordinarily powerful. Waters leaves enough plot threads dangling to easily write a sequel, but this book clearly stands alone. Daniel Waters has written an incredibly strong first book. He enters new territory by writing zombie fiction for young adults, but his work transcends categorization. Generation Dead will appeal to a wide audience of both horror readers and general readers in young adult fiction, and has strong enough writing that adult readers will want to pick it up as well.
It is still early in the year but Generation Dead is compelling and innovative enough that it has already earned itself a spot on our top picks for young adult horror fiction for 2008. Highly recommended for both public and school libraries.
Contains: violence, minor gore.
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