Originally reviewed here
.Why I Read It:
This was the September selection for calico_reaction's Theme Park Book Club
, the theme being "Kick-Assitude!" I was quite happy to be reading this, as it was my vote in the poll. Spoiler-free review ahead!
This book took me by surprise. Looking at the cover, you think it's going to be a fun and humourous romp in zombie fiction (which I thought was nice, as zombie fiction is usually full of Very Serious stories, a lot of which I like too, but it's always nice to read something different, ya know?) I did get some humour, but what I mostly got was a rather touching story of a young woman getting a second chance at life, when life initially dealt her a shitty hand. I'm still surprised by how touched I was by this story.
What really holds this story together is our heroine, Angel Crawford. I loved Angel. LOVED HER. The thing is, that yeah, she WAS a loser. She really was "white trash", but she is so incredibly sympathetic. Yeah, she makes a ton of shitty decisions (dropping out of school, pill-popping, "dating" Reggie), but she knows they're shitty decisions. But Rowland did a wonderful job of presented the cyclical nature of the circumstances surrounding Angel. When you grow up in the kind of household she did, breaking free from your history and making a new life for yourself is never easy, and while Angel certainly has the power to make the right decisions and to break free from her circumstances, it's by far the harder path to tread. Watching her make a comeback though as a zombie and setting her life straight made me really happy; I wanted to see her succeed and I wanted to see her make something of herself. And you have to love the irony of Angel only really starting to live her life after she's died.
What helps make Angel such a great character is her narrative voice. She's very self-deprecating, and while she usually tries to illicit a laugh at her own expense, her self-depravity is also really sad and just made me feel more sympathetic for her. Rowland hit the nail on the head with Angel's psychological makeup, especially with her habit to impose blame on herself for things that aren't her fault. She is funny when she wants to be (though I never had any laugh-out-loud moments), and her voice felt very distinct and authentic; you could disguise the cover of this book and I would know what I was reading because Angel's voice is that distinctive.
So yeah, Angel was great and her character arc is what largely carried this story for me. There are so many scenes I could point to that made me FEEL for Angel (ie. when Angel's dad calls from prison asking her to bail him out and she says no -- that was effing heart-breaking) and I loved this book for that.
The plot itself was engaging enough as well. The mystery surrounding Angel's being turned into a zombie and the events that led up to it kept me glued to the pages, though it took the story awhile to REALLY address those questions. The other mystery of people being beheaded takes center stage for the most part, though it does eventually tie in with Angel more closely and does so in a satisfying way. The rest of the story consists mostly of readers reading about Angel's new life, adjusting to being a zombie and the needs that accompany it, and making connections with new people, all of which I enjoyed to varying degrees.
I found the world-building behind the zombies strange. Not only are Rowland's zombies sentient and can think for themselves, but they can actually pass off as non-zombies as long as they keep eating brains. It's enough to roll with though, if you're willing to let go of any pre-conceived notions you have about zombies. Speaking of the brains, Rowland wrote some of the most disgusting and stomach-turning descriptions of brains and the eating thereof. There was one scene where angel describes a brain as bread-pudding, and it's a PERFECT description, but it made me feel kind of ill, so kudos for that (because I think being grossed out by brains is kind of the point -- I'm also really hard to gross out, especially with prose.) Final Verdict:
The cover of this book may lead you to believe you're diving into a humorous take on your favourite flesh-eaters, and while this book does offer some humour, it also ended up being a pretty emotionally-charged read for me as well. Angel's character arc is one riddled with heart-ache, and watching her break free of the circumstances she was born into made me have some FEELS. I found Angel to be a really likable character, so this arc was ultimately very fulfilling and heart-warming for me, though perhaps your mileage may vary. Rowland's zombies are very different from the ones I've seen in movies and read about in books, but the concept was enough to roll with once I got past those pre-conceived notions. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel -- a lot more than I thought I would -- and have already bought the sequel, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues
, which I plan on reading soon.