Not nearly as dead as it could have been, for a zombie tale, that is. If it had been more dead, it could have been a zombie tale I'd enjoy.
As it is though, it's a hormonal combination of teenage angst and existential crises, typical of what you'd find in a Shakespearean remake with the purpose of appealing to the current generation of YA readers. This relatively new
dead spin on the Romeo and Juliet story doesn't appeal to me personally, just as most revamps of Shakespearean "love stories" don't appeal to me. What it comes down to is a matter of taste, really, and also because I don't care for Shakespeare very much.
Overall though, the writing was a pleasant surprise, and many of the prosey descriptive passages depicting barren settings, like abandoned lots and other wastelands, were some of my favorite moments. YA authors are not known for their writing merits or prowess, and so I had been expecting this book to be similar to its weak-in-prose and high-in-angst forerunners. It surprised me though by being more intellectual than your average
bear genre YA and more "humane," for lack of a better word, than average zombie or monster fiction. (Despite the somewhat eye-rolling love story at the heart of it.)
The story is OK overall, but if you're fed up with Romeo and Juliet remakes or you're overwhelmed by the amount of zombies in the market, then you'd probably not like this book. But if you're looking for quick and light post-apocalyptic adventure, you might want to consider it.
As decent as the story is, the characterization is very flat and typical of what you'd find in genre fiction, though not typical of what you might expect in a supposedly character-driven story. Many reviewers say the weakest point of the book is dialogue, and I agree. Too much angst and brooding, not enough getting to the point. I think the book would have been a lot better if most of the conversations between R and Julie were cut out, to be replaced with plot development. And maybe if the "love story" angle was cut out too, to be replaced with...nothing. But that's just a matter of personal reading preference.
My biggest issue with this book is internal monologue, which seems contradictory to say since I just said I liked the writing. The thing is there are just too many internal monologues running too close together that did little to build up this dark and grim near-future post-apocalyptic world. And while I liked the airport setting, it wasn't featured enough in between R's long-winded internal monologues and Julie's brooding. There's also not enough story progression for my liking. The plot stays very much flat even as certain events are pushing the story forward, which threw the story off-balance.
And another thing, I don't like first person POV. When the narration is literally made up of internal monologues strung together, the character spewing these words has to be really, really, extremely interesting for the story to work. Otherwise, it's just boring.
That's not to say this book was a terrible read. It wasn't terrible--more contradiction? It's just unfortunate enough to have all the things I don't care for, all pushed into one book.
Whenever I come across a book such as this, I'm always glad I'm no longer a teenager. This book is the embodiment of almost everything I don't like and don't like to remember about adolescence. If it weren't for the zombie aspects and/or post-apocalyptic setting (both flooding the market right now), this story would not stand out in the sea of generic genre fiction. It certainly would not have made an impact (or been turned into a movie) if it was adult genre fiction.
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Maybe if I'd read this book before Raising Stony Mayhall, I would have been able to appreciate it more and find the existential concepts it introduced nuanced and interesting. Daryl Gregory is a tough act to follow. I think he ruined the whole zombie genre for me by having written such a great book and a great zombie character.