London, Simon & Schuster, 2012, 218p
I decided his blog was going to be difficult to write without giving anything away, so:
I am not a huge fan of zombie stories. Shortly before I was recommended this book, I had just given up on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because all it did was made me want to read the original again. But I had a lot more success with Zom-B.
B is a rather unlikeable protagonist. Rude and aggressive, B takes after dad, who is also overtly racist. They sit at home in London together, watching zombies attack a small town in Ireland, speculating whether it is a hoax. Everyone at school seems to have an opinion, from scientific experiment gone wrong to big-budget movie publicity stunt.
And the twist? About three quarters of your way through this novel, you discover the young, angry thug you thought was a boy is in fact a girl!
Unfortunately, this was spoiled for me by a students as I was reading the novel. I was struggling a bit with how little I sympathised with B, so my year 7 informed me B was short for Becky. Suddenly, a whole new reading of this book opened up, and I devoured it (like a zombie on human flesh).
The pace was perfectly executed, the drama was constant - from kidnappings at the museums to beatings from B's horrible father to zombies attacking the school. I still found it hard to relate to B, simply because I was never the bad kid at school. But when I learned of B's real identity, even the meanest of characters grew on me.
This novel is the first in a long, well-planned new series from Darren Shan. It is dark and graphic and gorey, making me gag more than once; sprinkled with equally disturbing moments of racism and bigotry from B's father. B struggles to juggle her conscience with her love for her father, sometimes taking his side and sometimes finding herself wracked with guilt when she acts like him.
Racism is an incredibly sensitive subject to tackle in teenage fiction, as the author must avoid the possible outcome of implanting bigoted ideas in the readers' heads, but I felt Shan handled it superbly. Due to the paralleling of the racism with the zombies, the fascists became just as disgusting and terrifying as the supernatural undead.
And to top it all off, there was the most enticing cliff hanger at the end. I am ready to forget my previous apathy to zombie literature and read on.
This blog is dedicated to Finn, even though he ruined the ending.