Published June 5, 2012. Buy here.
I’m honestly a bit mystified by this novel, but I’ve yet to decide if that’s a bad thing or not. The story is told through the eyes of Jeremy Barker, a high school freshman at an all-boys Catholic school in Baltimore. Jeremy loves zombie movies, and he maneuvers through his daily life and personal encounters by sticking to his code of survival, which he pieces together from various zombie movies. Between his divorced parents (addict mom and Vietnam vet dad), school bullies, girls, and aggressive teachers, Jeremy’s is certainly a world that warrants careful use of survival techniques.
The plot itself has less to do with zombies (there are, in fact, no literal, brain-munching undead to be found in the whole book) and more to do with the ways that Jeremy’s favorite movies are intertextualized throughout the story. Weaved within Jeremy’s adolescent tale of survival, though, is a bit of mystery surrounding a video he finds in his father’s room, his father’s nightly disappearances, and his father’s unexplained relationship with one of Jeremy’s teachers. The tone of the book is a bit dark and all the characters are oddities in their own ways, but the writing is great and there are many laugh-out-loud moments.
Still, I can’t help but feel like I missed something with this book. The mystery of Jeremy’s father is revealed in the end, but even during the reveal it’s hard to get a grasp on what is really going on. Interactions between characters are, on the whole, fairly awkward and roundabout, and there are times when it’s hard to understand why characters say certain things or respond in a certain manner. None of the characters are particularly likeable, especially the adults, and the overall organization of the book (extremely short chapters in ten different sections titled after zombie movies) doesn’t immediately make much sense.
Despite all this, though, the mystery element and the odd humor make this a good read; the difficult bits will make a great re-read, and I'm looking forward to diving into it again to figure out all its little perplexities. If you like zombie movies, young adult fiction, and/or bizarre stories, definitely check this one out.