Summary: Melanie is an intelligent young girl being held on an army base after a zombie apocalypse. She has no recollection of life outside the base; no recollection of her life before the hungries. Her life is very scheduled and limited, but her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau, brings beauty and light into her life. A big change is coming and, though no one knows it, Melanie is going to be at the center of it.
Review: There was a lot of talk about this book, but, in truth, I didn’t know anything about it until my book club read it, and I ran across one of the discussion questions prior to reading it; that’s how I knew it was about zombies. And, if you didn’t already know, you do now.
If I hadn’t known that going in, I suspect I would have within a few chapters, or at least, I would have suspected. And really, knowing or not knowing, I still would have read the book, even though zombies aren’t my normal fare, because the cover was interesting and book club and hype. If I hadn’t read it, I would have been missing out because this is so much more than a zombie book.
Though this book is labeled by some as horror, I think that’s a stretch. In fact, I think it does the work a disservice because, in my mind, the point of horror is to horrify, for the purposes of entertainment. Perhaps that definition is short-sighted on my part, but regardless, I didn’t find this book remotely scary, and I think labeling a book horror simply because it has zombies is lazy, and doing so may potentially discourage readers who don’t normally enjoy horror as a genre. As I said, this book isn’t terrifying or gory (though there are some who disagree with me on that point; I say they have weak stomachs!), and the zombies aren’t the main event here.
Really, this book examines humanity at its best and its worst. It questions what role science plays and whether or not there is a point where we “should” just because we “can”. It asks questions about humanity’s role in this world, about our fragility, our place in the ecosystem, in the history of evolution. It questions our assumptions about our right to exist and our arrogance about our worth as a species. Can we be top dog forever? Should we be? What lengths would each of us go to in order to ensure the human race’s survival? What would you do if you realized there was no hope?
There are quite a few people who were dissatisfied with the ending, but it was exactly the kind of pragmatic realism that I love. Would I recommend this book to my mother? No. Emphatically, no. Because though I don’t find it gory, it is very descriptive and there are zombies, and, let’s face it, I watch The Walking Dead and she would never. But I will definitely be recommending this book to anyone and everyone that I think falls into the right audience. Because it is a book that needs reading.