Take 5 for Zombie Week: Variant Zombie Tales
I like a good zombie book. I also love a good zombie book which presents a variation on the traditional zombie tale. Sure I like them dark and scary and brooding. I like a good old fashioned zombie plague as much as the next living undead person. But I also love to read a new twist or a new take. Or to add a little humor. I mean, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland may be two of the best zombie movies out there – so it’s great to find some books that add in a little – or a lot – of humor around the edges. And of course a good zombie novel can also ask us to explore important questions, drawing some distinct parallels between othered groups in our world and how the dominant or normalized group tend to view and treat marginalized groups. See, it’s not always just about eating brains and surviving, it can also be about asking us what it means to be human, what it means to be a monster, and what it means to be different in a way that makes you outcast from the rest. Today I am rounding up a few of my favorites for Zombie Week. Some of them are funny, some of them are more serious, but they all provide some slight variations on the traditional zombie tales.
The Infects is funny, sarcastic, and biting. It also has a very fun take on the zombie tale when you learn where the zombie outbreak is coming from, which I can’t tell you because SPOILERS. You’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out what makes this one so fascinating and fun. (PS, want another twisted zombie tale with a similar theme but for the MG crowd? Check out ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN by Paul Bacigalupi.)
Publisher’s Book Description: “A feast for the brain, this gory and genuinely hilarious take on zombie culture simultaneously skewers, pays tribute to, and elevates the horror genre.
Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back.
Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read—whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten—and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.”
Zombies are rounded up by the government and forced to serve in a kind of army where they go out and capture other zombies. These zombies are sentient, can talk, and have feelings. Underneath all the fun is some layers that ask us to examine the way we feel about othered groups and what limits we think our government should have. REBEL is book 2 in the series. (PS, want another awesome book that looks at teens being used by the government? Check out BLACKOUT by Robison Wells.)
Publisher’s Book Description: “Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).
Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.
The perfect soldier is done taking orders.”
This book is dark, gothic and truly fascinating. Magic is used to bring some people back to life where they are forced to work as slave labor. In the margins of this zombie tale are some real meaty discussions about socioeconomic class, how we view the poor, and what our faith might require of us. (PS, want another dark but awesome book? Check out SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson. It’s about demons not zombies, but man is it good.)
Publisher’s Book Description: “Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.
Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder’s mother is cursed with a spell that’s driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city’s secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.
Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they’re not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.
Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don’t always seem to stay that way.”
What happens when a psychic is used by the government to track down a zombie? And what happens when you accidentally turn the girl you have been crushing on into a zombie? Is there any chance she’ll fall in love with you now? There is a sequel! Don’t forget to read UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS. (PS, want more zombies falling in love? Don’t forget about WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion.)
Publisher’s Book Description: “Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.
Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.
Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.
Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014″
Sam learns he is a necromancer with the power to raise the dead when the head of the girl he has been crushing on shows up in a box on his doorstep and starts talking to him. Things just get weirder – and funnier – from there. Possibly the funniest book ever. (PS, if you are looking for funny books also check out A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand and The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan.)
Publisher’s Book Description: “Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.
Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.
With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?
More Zombie Talk at TLT
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom. All the cool undead kids are doing it.
TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.
TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2
Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist
Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world. I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on. I don’t like to cook. I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted. Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you. See, even zombie books are educational.
Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
SLJ Blog Network