In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Page Count: 458
Source: My copy.
This book began with some serious eye-rolling from me. I mean, the monsters were called Zoms (is the word zombie so long that it warrants abbreviation?), and our main character was a lazy, angst-ridden teenager who had no appreciation for the cozy world he lived in or the people who worked hard to keep him safe. I said in one of my status updates that Benny had better undergo some serious character development for me to even remotely get along with him, and thankfully, he did. The problem is, I just don’t feel invested in these characters. Or maybe I do. Maybe I just don’t like them very much. But I don’t think that is entirely their fault. The problem is, that the people, the adults that belong to this town of Mountainside shelter themselves and their children so much, that they have no idea what life is really like outside the fences. I mean, really, Benny thinks killing zombies is fun and there are fucking zombie cards. This is not a game. Surviving in the zombie apocalypse is not fun. It’s fucking terrifying. And the adults of this novel are so, so stupid (and Tom you are not exempt because you did the same thing). I just… I can’t even. I can’t wrap my head around the stupidity and negligence of these people. No one wants to talk about anything with each other or with the children, and yet they think it’s okay to send their children out to something that’s called the “Rot & Ruin” when their fifteen. Fifteen. Which, okay, is not that young, especially in the apocalypse, but at least prepare them! I mean, shit, one of your own kids thinks the local factory is producing soda when it is in fact producing cadaverine or whatever the name is… zombie juice. I mean, it makes you smell dead. So, yeah. Not soda. But how could you let your own child walk around that oblivious to everything? I’ve never encountered anything so foolish in my life.
Jonathan Maberry can write a sentence. There’s no doubt about that. I found beauty in normality every few pages. Having said that, the book still reads like a B Movie. I don’t know if that’s a zombie thing or what (this is my first zombie book). I watch The Walking Dead, which is, to me, very real and not B movie-ish at all, but the dialogue and inner monologue here kind of killed me. I couldn’t help but think that people don’t really think like that and definitely (at times) don’t talk like that. It was kind of corny, some of it. So, yeah. I’m not experienced in zombie matters so I don’t know if that’s what zombie-lovers look for (my husband LOVES “corny zombie movies”), but it stood out for me. And the cover and spine are sort of B movie-ish, too. Like I said, I don’t know if that’s just “the thing”.
Besides the stupidity of the characters, the novel was pretty predictable. There were at least two instances where I said to myself, I totally saw that coming. I thought it was drawn out. I went into this novel expecting a suspenseful adventure and that’s not really what I got. At all. It was more of a slow and steady kind a novel. Which is fine, in some cases, but this being a zombie book, I expected more action & adventure. I think I would have been a lot more invested if it was a non-stop thriller kind of thing. Instead, by page 300 (just over halfway through), I wanted to be done with it. Finishing the book was more of a chore for me.
The characters do develop eventually, especially Benny, Nix, and even Tom, so they get easier to deal with. Nix mostly annoyed me with her overwrought emotions, but she is a badass chick who can hold her own, so there’s that. And Maberry did a good job with the bad guys, I truly hated them and wanted them all to die. Wholly though, I just didn’t find myself being very invested in the story or its characters. It was kind of a meh book for me where I didn’t love it or hate it and that’s not the kind of story I really look forward to revisiting. I am conflicted about reading the sequel though. Lilah, though everyone thinks she’s crazy, to me, is the most sane character out of all of them. And the second book seems to focus on that. So I may pick it up. I haven’t decided yet.