Two New YA Books That Put a Unique Twist on Zombie Stories: Burn Down, Rise Up and The Undead Truth of Us
Do you think we’ve had enough vampire books or zombie novels? I recently read some people discussing how vampire stories aren’t over and done until we get to read an over abundance of vampire stories written by people of color. And by recently I mean a few months ago, long enough ago that I unfortunately can’t find the thread or tweet to give them proper credit. But that sentiment has stuck with me. It’s easy for me, a white woman who has been a teen librarian for 30 years, to say that I’m over vampire books (which I’m not, by the way), but many readers have never gotten to see themselves represented in the prolific vampire stories of the early 2000s. The same can be said for zombie books, which were very prevalent back around the early 2010s when The Walking Dead and World War Z were rocking the airwaves. But again, the stories were by and largely being told by white authors and full of white representation. So as a fan of zombie books – yes, still – I was thrilled to find a couple of new titles that not only add a fresh and unique perspective to the genre, but are written by people of color and give voice to groups of people who have been under represented in the zombie lore.
Burn Down, Rise Up
Stranger Things meets Get Out in this Sapphic Horror debut from nonbinary, Afro-Latine author Vincent Tirado.
An urban legend rumored to be responsible.
And one group of teens determined to save their city at any cost.
For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.
Karen’s Thoughts: This was such a creative approach to both the weird town legends trope and zombies, both elements that I love in a good book. I saw Vincent Tirado speak on a panel at TLA back in April of this year and was immediately taken by the concept of this book and it did not disappoint. Recommended. A great read for fans of Nerve and Panic, books that have teens participating in games with high stakes. And 100% give this to your Stranger Things fans ASAP. In the pages this book also deals with topics like police violence and it contains LGBTQ representation, the author is a nonbinary Afro-Latinx Bronx native.
The Undead Truth of Us by Britney S. Lewis
Publisher’s Book Description: Death was everywhere. They all stared at me, bumping into one another and slowly coming forward.
Sixteen-year-old Zharie Young is absolutely certain her mother morphed into a zombie before her untimely death, but she can’t seem to figure out why. Why her mother died, why her aunt doesn’t want her around, why all her dreams seem suddenly, hopelessly out of reach. And why, ever since that day, she’s been seeing zombies everywhere.
Then Bo moves into her apartment building―tall, skateboard in hand, freckles like stars, and an undeniable charm. Z wants nothing to do with him, but when he transforms into a half zombie right before her eyes, something feels different. He contradicts everything she thought she knew about monsters, and she can’t help but wonder if getting to know him might unlock the answers to her mother’s death.
As Zharie sifts through what’s real and what’s magic, she discovers a new truth about the world: Love can literally change you―for good or for dead.
In this surrealist journey of grief, fear, and hope, Britney S. Lewis’s debut novel explores love, zombies, and everything in between in an intoxicating amalgam of the real and the fantastic.
Karen’s Thoughts: This is another creative approach to the concept of zombies and in surprising ways, this is an evocative and beautiful meditation on grief. This approach is actually pretty mind-blowing, rich storytelling at its finest. Readers will think they are reading a zombie story, but walk away having read something so much more. Highly recommended.
I enjoyed both of these unique takes on the zombie novel.
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).
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