Saturday, May 17, 2008
I read Leila's review of this yesterday--I was already a good ways through it--and I echo her sentiments in part. I wanted to really like this one. When you get the first part of the premise--zombies in high school--you think it would be a really fun novel. A novel where perhaps just maybe a girl (or guy) will fall in love with someone a bit unusual--a bit dead. Like Bella falling for Edward, maybe. Or one of those countless other books where teens are falling in love with vampires, werewolves, and such. But that's not what this novel is about. It's not romance exactly. And it's not horror either--zombies attacking. It's social propaganda 101. Sort've. Mostly.
Here's the basic premise--teens all over America are rising from their graves. For whatever reason--still unexplained by scientists--some (but not all) teens are coming back from the dead. Some zombies--aka living impaired aka differently biotic--are accepted by their families. Others are not so lucky. Some are rejected by family, friends, and former significant others. There isn't a lot of love going around for the undead among us. Far from it, hate and disgust reign supreme. And since their rights as human beings, as American citizens, died with them, the zombies are left to fend for themselves and make do best they can. There isn't really much support--so far--private or public for the zombies' cause and interests.
There is one school--I believe the novel is set in Connecticut--that has more living impaired students than most of the others. In fact, some living impaired are moving there just so they won't be so alone, so isolated. This is a good and bad thing. The more living impaired students there are, the more ticked off the living become. While the principal promotes loving acceptance and inclusion, the student body is far from treating their fellow classmates with respect and courtesy and dignity.
Meet Phoebe. Phoebe isn't quite like the others. She is a goth chick, for one, but she's different for another reason as well. She's not blind to the zombies. She notices them. She's drawn to one in particular, a boy named Tommy Williams. She feels the need, the desire, to become his friend.
Tommy. Tommy isn't like most zombies. He's the best of the best, you might say. He's more articulate, more graceful (less clumsy and awkward) than his peers. At one point in the novel, someone says he could almost pass as living. Almost. He "represents" the best of what a zombie can be. He does try out for the football team.
But his friendship with Phoebe will have consequences. Adam, Phoebe's best friend, learns to deal with it respectfully for the most part. He still wants her for himself. But he comes to like Tommy. They become friendly with one another. But Adam is almost the only one on the football team that treats Tommy as a human. The others are set to destroy. Most would kill him if they could. After all, killing the undead isn't a crime. Most would say Tommy doesn't have any right to be "alive" at all.
Here's the thing, you can support the message--really be more than fine with the message--and not want to read a 392 page novel that pimps that message in such a didactic way. It accelerates from subtle to didactic (preachy) very very quickly. You won't necessarily think this in the first few chapters, I know I didn't, but towards the middle it gets very bogged down with THE MESSAGE. The message here is on prejudice and discrimination and human rights. The zombies represent any and every minority group ever scorned and mistreated by society. This novel is the battle between tolerance and intolerance of love and hate. It's not quite a full parable, but it borders one so nearly with its in-your-face hitting you with a hammer style that it's hard not to feel it tries a bit too hard. Why be subtle when you can be IN YOUR FACE. Why say something once or twice when you can say it a hundred times in all caps?
I guess this is what it comes down to. I wanted more from this one, so I'm disappointed. However, that's not strictly fair to the book. It does offer something to readers. It does offer food for thought. It does offer a mix of dark sarcasm and wit with some rather serious overtones--bullying, hate, murder, etc. There were moments I smiled. There were moments I enjoyed it. There were places when I connected with the story. But it wasn't a completely satisfying experience either. It wasn't an I-loved-every-page kind of book. I liked it in parts and bits. Tommy is by far my favorite thing about the novel. Read his blog here.
The ending left me a little unsatisfied. It could have done more perhaps, and if there is a sequel, perhaps we'll see more resolution. By the way, most reviews seem to be positive and gushing praise. So I'm in the minority in being only "meh" about it.
Other reviews: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Just to name a few.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews