The colorful, unusual cover of J.R. Angelella’s first novel is bound to inspire curiosity in teens, don’t you think? It’s hard to tell just what it might contain. The answer — a different sort of coming-of-age story which, despite its title, harbors no zombies. Instead, a zombie movie-obsessed teen boy.
The review on Paste is a particularly good reflection on why zombies are so prevalent in recent pop culture, and relevant to teens in particular.
I should add that, while the cover looks nearly cartoonish, this is a mature read, best recommended to older teens.
Angelella’s bio mentions that he is also the author of a Southern Gothic supernatural YA series co-written with his wife, Kate Angelella, to be published by Sourcebooks/Teen Fire.
Adult/High School–High school freshman Jeremy Barker lives his life according to the rules of survival he’s learned thanks to his obsession with zombie movies: avoid eye contact; keep quiet; forget the past; lock and load; and, most important, fight to survive. Whether dealing with the casual violence inflicted by bullies at his Catholic school, his father’s nightly disappearances, or his estranged mother’s addiction to painkillers, he always calls on his rules. During one of his father’s absences, Jeremy discovers a bizarre, disturbing video of a man being prepped for a strange ritual that looks a lot like surgery. Knowing about his father’s “work” in Vietnam as a torturer specializing in cutting out prisoners’ tongues, and knowing this video was given to his father by a priest from his school, Jeremy is compelled to investigate. He is drawn into situations in which his zombie survival code helps, but eventually it is not enough. Zombie is a brass-knuckle book, reminiscent in tone to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (Norton, 1996). Jeremy’s relationships with his friends and family are twisted and difficult, making this book disturbingly intriguing. The setting and social situations will resonate with many teens. Zombie is a great choice for readers who are excited by stories with offbeat characters and somewhat nonlinear plots. Jeremy’s list of the top zombie movies of all time, complete with production credits, is an added bonus.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA