Disclosure: I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Anybody who knows me knows that I was a HUGE zombie fan before The Walking Dead and local zombie runs made it mainstream cool. I was a little girl when I saw my first zombie flicks and I’ve loved them ever since. What girl doesn’t love some decomposing, flesh-craving, undead shamble action on a dark and stormy night, right?
One of the things I love so much about zombies is that every writer or filmmaker has his or her own take on how they came to be and what kind of creatures they are. Usually, the nature of the zombie is well defined — some opt for slow-moving, mindless eating machines, while others entertain the notion that zombies retain some memories, skills and even physical strength and agility. However, there are a disappointing number of zombie creators who give a quick “military experiment gone wrong” type of explanation and then focus heavily on the main character’s fight for survival with heavy carnage as filler.
What I love about Barely Alive is that Bonnie R. Paulson gives a clear, unique backstory on the origin of the virus that causes zombie-like behavior in the infected as well as how the outbreak begins. Plus, she gives the main character, Paul, a heart and purpose. While he knows from the start of the novel that his days are numbered, his focus is never on himself. His objective is always the safety of a human girl, Heather, even though he deems her inferior (and delicious), and his own brother, despite their bitter history.
It’s important for undead aficionados to know the book isn’t fluffy. The zombies in this novel aren’t all sweet and thoughtful; Paul is a rarity who struggles with his hunger for raw flesh and carnal fulfillment. His deteriorating brethren are all too happy to feed their desires with no holds barred. Plus, the imagery of Paulson’s zombies in their late stages is delightfully grotesque for the zombie lover too. The thought of what their existence must be like is absolutely horrifying and totally chilled me to the core. Awesome.
Paul and Heather have great chemistry and the parallels in their personalities and imperfect histories make them easy for a reader to connect with. It’s interesting how a couple of teens who might otherwise have been high school sweethearts became an unlikely duo bent on surviving and possibly saving a world headed for undead destruction. I thoroughly enjoyed their story and can’t wait to start reading the next book in the series, Falling Apart.
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