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13 Thoughts Author Carrie Mesrobian Had About The Walking Dead

If you follow author Carrie Mesrobian on Twitter, you know that she is a big fan of The Walking Dead. She is part of the reason that this week became Zombie Week, our shared love of zombies and The Walking Dead. So to round up Zombie Week, Carrie Mesrobian is sharing some thoughts she has about The Walking Dead.

  1. This show is based on a comic book series that isn’t exactly kid-friendly. But it also features prominently a young boy named Carl, who grows up in both worlds. I think Carl learning how to be an adult in the post-apocalypse world is a perfect vehicle next to his father, Rick, who is a sheriff in the old world. Carl must by necessity make new rules for his reality, while his father tries to grip to the old ones that were so deep in his identity.

 

  1. I don’t read the comics. Not yet. I want to have something to savor after the show ends. This is something I love about fandoms. Even if there isn’t source material for a movie or TV series you love, there’s fanfiction. You can always immerse yourself back into that world again in new ways. (Too bad Daryl Dixon’s not in the comics…)

 

  1. The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies, or the disease zombies symbolize. I think The Walking Dead is about survival, which is something all people relate to, even if our current survival may not be a hand-to-mouth one. What makes us human and what makes us inhuman?

 

  1. The Walking Dead has some sexism issues, which vacillate depending on the female character as well as the season’s focus and script writers. The character of Andrea was frustrating to many. The plot used Andrea as a device for its own purposes instead of using her character’s own motivations to drive plot. Character first, then plot, is what I would advise. It’s hard to pull off, of course.

 

  1. A lot of people decry how this show showcases “man pain” vis a vis the deaths of women or male characters of color. I think this is easily arguable. But I remain fascinated with man pain, as a viewer/reader. I don’t see a lot of visible man pain or male tears in my own reality. I think we all want to gawk at what that looks like. Instead we see a lot of male anger and the destruction that wreaks on our world. I’m tired of male anger. Give me the man pain over the male anger any day. The Walking Dead is probably not a great test-case for this dynamic, given its content.

Gratuitous Darl Dixon GIF for Carrie. GIF from PandaWhale.

  1. The Walking Dead has some racism issues. One is that the show likes to kill off characters of color constantly. It’s not that I don’t buy that characters of color wouldn’t die at the same pace as white characters. I get that. What people don’t seem to understand is that in the context of televised entertainment, enduring characters of color, ones we get to love and hate and connect with over the long-term, still remain few and far between. This context is important for television producers to understand; I’m not talking about verisimilitude. Another thing that we don’t often see on TV are long-term love relationships between characters of color, so when Bob died, I just felt like the show missed yet another chance to defy the norm. We’re getting a hefty plate of Sasha’s grief and that’s rich as well, but again: context. Context matters in any medium – I’d like to see TV writers and producers move past the “but we’re just depicting reality” explanation and remember the legacy of their medium every time they create a story arc or new episode.

 

  1. You don’t want to be a cute little kid on this show. You’re going to be a tool of sorrow and gore in short order.

 

  1. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories have great “unlikeable” characters. Is that part of the draw of these tales? We can finally hate people with generous gusto because the stakes are so raised? I don’t give one shit about likeability in general. We see a character like Merle Dixon, an odious person, so far from redemption, someone that makes us think, “ugh.” But this show isn’t presenting Merle Dixon as a babysitting candidate for our children. Merle Dixon is a symbol for cruelty and generational bigotry and horror and macho destruction. Michael Rooker is a very skilled actor who makes this character come alive. You might not want Merle to be your friend or neighbor, but he sure made me sit up straight whenever he came on screen. Unlikeable characters often translate to “electrifying personae” in my view.

 

  1. I don’t watch this show for gore. I don’t care about grossness and blood. It became a joke after season 2 when Daryl dug open the walker looking to see if ate Sophia and learned “this gross fucker had himself a woodchuck for lunch.” I don’t know what to say to people who can’t stand gore. It’s there. I turn away. I watch enough “behind-the-scenes” content that I know exactly how the zombie heads are made to rip away from the fake skulls anyway.

 

  1. The violence in The Walking Dead interests me more than the gore, which might sound counterintuitive. But as I mentioned in point #3, the idea of what makes us human is the constant ethic being pressed up against in this story. That we are animals isn’t something I have trouble with; I can see our needs as animals. What is harder to express is what makes someone inhuman. Being inhuman is not the same as being an animal, I think. There is some other rubric being put in play when we dehumanize ourselves and others. I don’t know what that is but it’s a question that’s constantly being examined in this show and one that I enjoy seeing depicted. So violence is a part of that recipe.

 

  1. The best part of this show is that each character is very well-rounded. That is what brings me back. Every character has a depth and a backstory and a set of motivators that marks him or her. While I want to make out with Daryl Dixon very consistently, he’s not my current favorite character. Last season, Michonne was my favorite. Right now, I’m most intrigued with Glenn. It’s hard to pick a favorite, honestly. They’re all so juicy and good.

 

  1. If this show gives me any kind of anxiety, it’s mainly that we need to stockpile seeds and keep making compost. A global food supply chain is not our friend when the world goes to hell, yall.

 

  1. The Walking Dead helped me to understand the point of fan-fiction. Now I write it and enjoy this very much. When the season ends on March 29th, I will certainly go back to writing more of it as well as reading it. In my view, the best fanfiction has sex in it, because this show is not generous about romance (except with the Governor, eww), so feel free to hit me up with your favorite fic links in the off-season.

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Carrie Mesrobian has worked as a teacher in both public and private schools; my writing has appeared in the StarTribune, Brain, Child magazine, Calyx, and other web and print publications. She teaches teenagers about writing at The Loft Literary Centerin Minneapolis.

My first two books, Sex & Violence & Perfectly Good White Boy were published by Carolrhoda LAB.

My third book, Cut Both Ways, (HarperCollins), will be released September 2015.

 

About Cut Both Ways:

“Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.

Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?

Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.

Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.”

Take 5 for Zombie Week: Variant Zombie Tales

I like a good zombie book. I also love a good zombie book which presents a variation on the traditional zombie tale. Sure I like them dark and scary and brooding. I like a good old fashioned zombie plague as much as the next living undead person. But I also love to read a new twist or a new take. Or to add a little humor. I mean, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland may be two of the best zombie movies out there – so it’s great to find some books that add in a little – or a lot – of humor around the edges. And of course a good zombie novel can also ask us to explore important questions, drawing some distinct parallels between othered groups in our world and how the dominant or normalized group tend to view and treat marginalized groups. See, it’s not always just about eating brains and surviving, it can also be about asking us what it means to be human, what it means to be a monster, and what it means to be different in a way that makes you outcast from the rest. Today I am rounding up a few of my favorites for Zombie Week. Some of them are funny, some of them are more serious, but they all provide some slight variations on the traditional zombie tales.

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

The Infects is funny, sarcastic, and biting. It also has a very fun take on the zombie tale when you learn where the zombie outbreak is coming from, which I can’t tell you because SPOILERS. You’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out what makes this one so fascinating and fun. (PS, want another twisted zombie tale with a similar theme but for the MG crowd? Check out ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN by Paul Bacigalupi.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “A feast for the brain, this gory and genuinely hilarious take on zombie culture simultaneously skewers, pays tribute to, and elevates the horror genre.

Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back.

Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read—whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten—and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.”

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Zombies are rounded up by the government and forced to serve in a kind of army where they go out and capture other zombies. These zombies are sentient, can talk, and have feelings. Underneath all the fun is some layers that ask us to examine the way we feel about othered groups and what limits we think our government should have. REBEL is book 2 in the series. (PS, want another awesome book that looks at teens being used by the government? Check out BLACKOUT by Robison Wells.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.”

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore

This book is dark, gothic and truly fascinating. Magic is used to bring some people back to life where they are forced to work as slave labor. In the margins of this zombie tale are some real meaty discussions about socioeconomic class, how we view the poor, and what our faith might require of us. (PS, want another dark but awesome book? Check out SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson. It’s about demons not zombies, but man is it good.)

Publisher’s Book Description:Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder’s mother is cursed with a spell that’s driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city’s secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they’re not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don’t always seem to stay that way.”

Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

What happens when a psychic is used by the government to track down a zombie? And what happens when you accidentally turn the girl you have been crushing on into a zombie? Is there any chance she’ll fall in love with you now? There is a sequel! Don’t forget to read UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS. (PS, want more zombies falling in love? Don’t forget about WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014″

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam learns he is a necromancer with the power to raise the dead when the head of the girl he has been crushing on shows up in a box on his doorstep and starts talking to him. Things just get weirder – and funnier – from there. Possibly the funniest book ever. (PS, if you are looking for funny books also check out A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand and The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

 

More zombie books on Goodreads

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

The Walking Dead: The Comics VS. The TV Show (a guest post by Geri Diorio)

Today for Zombie Week librarian Geri Diorio is joining us once again to talk about The Walking Dead graphic novel series and how it compares to the TV show.

WARNING! SPOILERS for the comic up to issue 138 and the show as of March 15, 2015

The Walking Dead may be one of the most popular television shows on the air, but it began as a black and white comic book. In fact, it remains both of these things. In 2003, Image Comics began publishing monthly issues of The Walking Dead, written by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Tony Moore and then later drawn by Charlie Adlard. The comic, which won the 2010 Eisner Award for the Best Continuing Series, focuses on a former sheriff named Rick Grimes, his family and compatriots, as they fight to survive in the zombie apocalypse.

The comic is about as far from the brightly-colored, splashy-paneled mental image one may have of comic books. There are no superheroes in tights, flying in to save the day. There are instead stark black and white images with some muted gray shading. This fits the overall vibe of the comic (and the tv show to an extent). While reading the comic, you continually think, “Things can’t get worse for these people.” And every time you think that, things get worse. Since this is a story set in the zombie apocalypse, there is not a lot to be cheery about. The black and white art does not mitigate the violence. One character’s death by a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat was still horribly gory, despite being rendered in stark black and white. Of course the impact of that image may also have a lot to do with the emotional attachment readers had to the character.

The comic begins with Rick Grimes waking up in a hospital, having missed the beginning of the end of the world. He was injured on the job, and was in a coma. He awakens with no knowledge of what has happened in the world, making him a perfect analog for the reader. In the time that he has been unconscious, zombies have overrun Atlanta (and possibly the world). The reader discovers what has happened through Rick’s eyes and is as shocked as he is. In subsequent issues (Image has published more than 135 now), we learn more about what has happened in the world, and we see how individuals and groups are coping (or not coping as the case may be). Rick and his group move from a prison to a farm to a safe zone (a suburban development that has been secured by building enormous walls around it). They encounter people who need help, people who can offer help, and many people who offer violence and threats of death. There are two out-and-out wars that have happened over the course of the comic so far, and several major characters have been killed. While the zombies are a persistent threat, it has become clear that living humans are far more dangerous to Rick’s group than the dead.

The television series, (written by a variety of people, with Kirkman, Adlard, Moore, and former Executive Producer Frank Darabont having the lion’s share of writer’s credits), has used the comic as it’s template, but has varied and expanded from it to better suit the medium and, perhaps, to draw in more viewers.

Television is not print, and while comics are perhaps the most visually important print medium, they are still very static compared to the moving image. The tv show is literally bloodier. Special Effects Makeup Designer Greg Nicotero’s work often feature spurts of blood hitting the camera lens. It is interesting to note that the zombie blood has gone from bright red when the tv series began, to varying shades of brown now that the zombies are a year old and have decayed that much more. The only red blood seen on screen these days comes from living humans who are attacked. While the comic’s graphic black and white pictures are certainly arresting, it is the image of a wriggling, writhing, slimy well-zombie getting pulled in half on Hershel’s farm that has been burned into my retinas forever. From the very beginning, the show has gone past the blueprint of the comic to make the horror more gripping for viewers. In Days Gone By, the first episode of the show, Rick’s horse is pulled out from under him by a swarm of walkers and he manages to hide in a tank to escape the horde. This scene perfectly evoked a panel from the comic; but with the television camera’s ability to pull back, far above the herd of walkers, and show viewers the wriggling, struggling mass looking like deadly maggots converging on a piece of meat, the tv series showed viewers it was going to try and take The Walking Dead to a whole other level of visual horror. At times, nothing is as powerful as good special effects.

Of course there are many similarities between the properties. Rick Grimes is almost always center stage in both. While both the comic and the tv show have featured other characters, some of whom have become hugely popular in their own right (Hello, Jesus! Hello, Daryl!) it always comes back to Rick and his immediate family. The tv show has kept a lot of the comic’s overarching plot points: Hershel’s farm, the prison, meeting Michonne, Woodbury and the Governor, thinking Eugene can cure things, heading towards D.C., meeting cannibals, and going to Alexandria. But the show has branched out from its source material as well: taking the group to the CDC (a nice touch in my opinion, to explain the zombie apocalypse to viewers using a “scientific” basis), introducing characters like Daryl and Merle, turning Carol into a stone-cold pragmatic killer, and letting baby Judith live, while killing Andrea.

But TV show viewers who choose to go read the comic may find the most startling contrast is Rick’s lack of a right hand. In the comics, the Governor cuts it off, and Mr. Grimes has been making the best of it, living one-handed throughout the zombie apocalypse. This is something writer Robert Kirkman now regrets:

“When I’m writing a comic book, I don’t think about what I’m doing. I go, ‘Oh, it’d be pretty cool if they cut his hand off right now. That’d be pretty shocking, right?’. Then I do it, and five issues later, I write ‘Rick opens a can of beans’ and then I look at the script and think ‘He can’t do that now’. I didn’t even think that through.”1

This is just a broad comparison between the tv show and comic. If you would like to dive deeper into comparing and contrasting, may I suggest Screen Rush’s excellent take on this very topic? They look at each episode of the program and place screen shots next to comic panels so you can see how closely (or not) the show is hewing to its source material. They even compare tv scripts to the speech balloons in the comics. It always surprises me when dialog is lifted straight from the comic.

If you are a horror fan, there is certainly much to enjoy about The Walking Dead in both of its forms. And if you enjoy one version more than another, there is certainly much joy to be found in arguing about which is better!
1 DigitalSpy.com article :  http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/s135/the-walking-dead/news/a331768/walking-dead-exec-we-shouldnt-cut-off-ricks-hand.html#~p78GwhCgjbieqG

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Geri Diorio is the Teen Services Librarian at the Ridgefield Library in Ridgefield, Connecticut. She loves zombies, science fiction, fantasy, the Ninth Doctor, and Game of Thrones. You can contact her on Twitter – @geridiorio

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

Zombie Love: Why Are Zombie Things So Popular? (A guest post by Geri Diorio)

This week we’re – and by we’re I mean people like me and author Carrie Mesrobian, not necessarily everyone here at TLT – counting down the days until The Walking Dead season finale. So while we’re counting down, we thought we would dedicate the week to zombies. We’ll here from author Carrie Mesrobian later in the week – you may have heard but she really likes The Walking Dead, particularly Daryl Dixon – and today librarian Geri Diorio is sharing with us some of her thoughts regarding the popularity of zombies.

Why do we love zombies so much? Because it seems like here in America, we REALLY love zombies. They have been all over our pop culture for more than 60 years. But if you stop to think about it, zombies have been all over humanity’s consciousness for a long time. The very idea of zombies is an old one. There seems to always have been folklore concerning the dead coming back to life. Just think of stories about vampires, ghouls, or mummies. A doctoral student I know just spent a summer in Poland digging up “vampire” graves – the final resting place of people who died in the 17th century, and were suspected of being vampires. These poor folks were buried with sharp sickles and heavy stones over their necks so that they wouldn’t rise from their graves. Humanity’s wish for life and our terror of death is very strong. We don’t want to die, but we know all things die. So if we die but come back, we are not going to look pretty. And our bodies are not going to function well. And there will be rotting. After all, people have seen have happens to meat left out too long. Thinking of all that, it is not a far leap to envisioning a zombie.

I wouldn’t normally commit the writer’s sin of quoting from a reference source, but the Encyclopedia Britannica’s word choice on this entry is simply too good to ignore. Regarding the etymology of “zombie’, Britannica says: “The word zombie itself entered the English lexicon in the 18th or 19th century, often attributed to British writer Robert Southey, although the idea of the walking dead had existed in various cultures for centuries.”1

So while the idea of the undead has been around for a very long time, the current pop culture idea of a zombie began in the middle of the last century and has become hugely popular with the start of the twenty first century. Popular zombie movies may have had their start in 1932 with White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi. But the zombie movie movement continued with such films as King of the Zombies, I Walked With a Zombie, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Tales of Terror. (This is a very incomplete list.)

In 1968, filmmaker George Romero changed the zombie pop culture game forever with his film Night of the Living Dead. While there had been dozens of zombie films previous to this one, Romero’s struck a chord with audiences. This independent film, made for $114,000, grossed more than $12,000,000. Zombies meant big box office. Romero went on to make half a dozen more “Dead” films, and his success seems to have launched a plethora of zombie love. There have been films such as Evil Dead, Zombieland, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, and Paranorman. Zombie books appeared, like The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, The Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Alden Bell’s The Reapers Are the Angels, Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, and Warm Bodies (Isaac Marion) and World War Z (Max Brooks) which both were turned into movies. The Walking Dead and the new show iZombie have brought zombies to television. The Resident Evil video game series continues to be popular and zombies have even invaded casual gaming. Anyone for a round of Plants vs. Zombies? There are 5K races where runners are chased by people in zombie make up (that would make me run faster!). And even the US government got into the zombie swing of things. The Center for Disease Control has an entire plan on Zombie Preparedness. Yes, it was created initially as a tongue-in-cheek look at disaster planning, but its popularity has proven to be so big, the CDC has maintained the website. Zombies also figure into the US Armed Forces’ plans for large scale operations. There is an unclassified document, “CONOP 8888”, which the US Strategic Command used as an example of a planet-wide emergency: a zombie attack on the world.

So zombies are everywhere and we do seem to love them. Why is that? Well, if you enjoy the horror genre, you enjoy being scared. Perhaps it is the endorphin buzz you get from your fight or flight reflex being triggered. Perhaps your enjoyment comes from a more intellectual place. Maybe you enjoy the mental puzzle of figuring out how to survive a monster attack without actually getting attacked. Or maybe you have a fear of loss of technology and power, a life with no modern amenities. If the zombie apocalypse happens, power plants, water treatment facilities, and mass transit are all going away. Zombies are also useful blank slates for our subconscious. They are monsters we can project our fears onto. Disease, death, relentless pursuit, it seems like you can plug a zombie into any of these fears. Other monsters (vampires, werewolves, people with chainsaws and axes) just want to kill you – zombies want to consume your brain, devour what makes you, you; this certainly fuels a fear of loss of self. And thinking along the same lines as the US Strategic Command, zombies make a great device for an apocalyptic survival story. There is a vague menace lurching about, but we look closely only at the living folks and their stories. The survivors are the only real characters. Thus the popularity of The Walking Dead in both its comic and TV incarnations. Sure the blood and guts may attract (and repel) people, much like the fascination of looking at a wreck, but it is because of the living humans that we keep coming back to a survival story with zombies.

1 “Zombie.” Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Photo Credit: Mark Edwards

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Geri Diorio is the Teen Services Librarian at the Ridgefield Library in Ridgefield, Connecticut. She loves zombies, science fiction, fantasy, the Ninth Doctor, and Game of Thrones. You can contact her on Twitter – @geridiorio

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

TPiB: Turn Your Library into Lovecraft Middle School (spooky crafts and Halloween fun)

Halloween is one of my most favorite times of the year.  The leaves turn beautiful colors and glide gently to the ground, perfect for leaf pile jumping.  Everyone gets to dress up.  And there is candy.  Lots and lots and lots of candy.  I may or may not be the parent who sneaks candy out of the candy stash after my kids go to bed.  In my love for Halloween, I have set up my library as a haunted house a couple of times.  And as I read through the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series, I can’t help but think that this is not only the perfect Halloween read, but the perfect programming tie-in.

Tales from Lovecraft Middle School is a series about school that was built where a bizarre house used to stand.  Now, there are portals in the school, gateways to another dimension where this house once stood.  And sometimes strange, terrifying creatures come through the portals.  Not everyone knows about them, but Robert and Glenn do.  These are fun, slightly terrifying tales for middle grade readers – think a modern day take on Lovecraft for the Goosebumps set.  I’ve read all four books and they are more fun then scary, perfect for the MG crowd.

You can turn your library into a haunted house (Pinterest is your friend to research this).  Also, there are a few fun hands on activities below you can do for a program.

Gargoyle Stained Glass

 

Book 1 of LCMS is called Professor Gargoyle, so of course a gargoyle craft is a great idea.  Follow this link to Free Kids Crafts for a complete list of materials and instructions.  If you are ambitious, you can make gargoyles out of non-bake clay and let it dry.

Snake Charming

Book 2 involves two sisters who have snakes for hair, ala Medusa.  Oriental Trading (every librarian’s friend) has wooden wiggly snakes you can purchase and let participants color.  You can also make these springy spiral snake mobiles to hang from the ceiling or make these cool paper folded snakes.

Buggy Crafts and Games

Book 3 involves bugs.  There are no shortage of bug crafts out there.  Again, Pinterest is probably your friend here.  This bug is made from a calculator and school supplies.  I love this spiderweb made with colored chalk and school glue.  I also think it would be fun to buy some Hexo Bugs (not cheap, but you can buy them in bulk) and let the kids build HexoBug parks/arenas out of boxes, etc. and do some racing/fighting.

Monster Lab

Book 4 has a sinister substitute teacher and an army of monsters.  For some hands on monster fun you can either do an Exquisite Corpse activity (directions here) or pull out your left over craft supplies and let the kids loose to make their own monsters.  I love craft closet clean out!  You can also check out these previous posts: It’s a Dead Man’s Party , Bring Out Your Dead and Monster Fest.

You could also do some face painting and a monster make-up lab. 

Instagram It

The people in my neighborhood are already starting to decorate for Halloween.  Get out your smart phone and take pictures.  You can then Instagram them to add atmosphere and, if you like, add words to create cool signage for the season.  You can use your pics to create bookmarks, wall or end cap art, and more.

Here is some more random fun that you can throw in:

Tombstone Making : You can find instructions (and lots of other fun Halloween themed ideas) at It’s Written on the Wall.

Ghost Lights

Bat Mobile (which you can also turn into garland)

Creeptacular Touch Test: Check it out here at Craft Interrupted

Eyeball Miniature Golf – Make a min golf course (book ends, boxes, tubes, etc.) and use these floating eye ball balls as your golfball.

Additional Resources
20 Mod Podge Halloween Craft Tutorials
50 Halloween Crafts & Ideas 

Haunted House Pinterest Board Ideas
158 Pins 
266 Pins
327 Pins
1586 Pins

The Tales from Lovecraft Middle School are written by Charles Gilman and published by Quirk Books.

Book Review: Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

The first thing you need to know is this: Eat, Brains, Love is not really a play or spoof on Eat, Pray, Love.  It is not Pride and Prejudice with Zombies.  It is its own book, and it is actually really good.

Jake is sitting in the school cafeteria.  He doesn’t feel so well.  And more disturbingly, he thinks that maybe he wants to eat his best friend; like just reach out and take a huge bite out of him like he is a juicy steak.  And what is that happening over there?  Holy crud, is Amanda Blake snacking on the cheerleaders?  Why yes, yes she is.  And this is how it begins.  Jake and Amanda are left dealing with the guilt that comes from having eaten their best friends while they are on the run from, well, zombie hunters actually.  The men (and women) in black as it may be.  As always, the government is hiding things.

But our story begins with a high school career aptitude test:
“Of course now I know for sure that test was total bullshit.  There weren’t any questions about cannibalism, or fleeing government hit squads, or picking the perfect sound track for a road trip/car chase.  Of the fifty possible career recommendations, none of them were ‘undead fugitive'” – page 3

Cut to Cass.  Cass can read the residual energy from the dead.  She is, in a word, psychic.  And useful.  When you are trying to keep the fact that zombies exist a secret, it is helpful to have someone who can go in and read a dead person, find out who the zombie is, and chase them down on the down low.  But Cass thinks there is something weird going on with Jake; sometimes he seems . . . alive?  Human?  Whatever is happening here, it seems different then what the government agency she works for keeps telling her, and now she isn’t sure who the real monsters are.

Eat, Brains, Love manages to be something that is hard to do at this point – a different type of zombie novel.  Often times irreverent, EBL manages to have heart and humor with the occasional moments of “must eat your brains”.  The zombie stuff is fun, but Cass’s story is the interesting one here.  Through Cass we get discussions of what it means to be a monster, some insight into government conspiracies, and thoughtful commentary on what it means to have compassion.  In tone, this is often reminiscent of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion:
“I watched in amazement.  Holy shit.  Amanda Blake was kind of dorky.  We’d just turned into flesh eating, brain-sucking monsters and eaten a bunch of our friends. And some other people. We’d also narrowly escaped some gun-toting government hard case. . . . That’s a day of heavy transformative shit right there.” – p.71 (Oh, and hey, for those who appreciate a heads up, there is cussing.  So mark this one YA for sure.)

The back cover says “a surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts” – which sums it up really well.  In addition to the obvious pairing of zombie stories, it would also make an interesting pairing with Blackout by Robison Wells for a behind the scenes look at conspiracy theories and how the government sometimes keeps us in the dark. 4 out of 5 stars, definitely recommended.  So much snark, so much fun.  (Harper Teen, October 2013.  ISBN: 978-0-06-220034-1)

Fiction Lessons from The Walking Dead, a guest post by Carrie Mesrobian

26 of the best Walking Dead memes at KilltheHydra.com

The Walking Dead is just a gory zombie story, right? Just a show about killing bad guys with sick special effects? It can’t teach us anything about writing, can it?

Dude. If you read or write fiction, you are out of your mind if you’re not watching shows like The Walking Dead. The potential for learning about what makes good story-telling is unbelievable. (Some spoilers for seasons that have already happened occur in this post. You have been warned.)
Let’s take a look at the two big ones: character and plot.
Character Motivation: Driver Of Plot
One of the most simple-yet-critical features about this show is that every character wants something. And not just wanting to stay alive. In fact, we’ve seen from a couple of characters in seasons 1-3 that staying alive is not a given. But, just like in books, when everyone wants something, the story keeps moving.
Rick Grimes wants to find his family. Andrea wants to protect the sister she ignored prior to the Zombie Apocalypse (ZA). Glenn wants to be valued in this life, as he wasn’t in the old – Daryl, too – as well as seek thrills not allowed to him in the former, orderly world. Shane wants Rick’s wife – his life, perhaps, too. Lori wants to hide her secret affair. Merle wants to take what the group has on the mountain. Daryl wants to find his brother, but he also knows that his survival might mean letting Merle go. Maggie wants to keep her family together while also being independent and acknowledged as an adult. Herschel wants to see if there’s a cure for the infection. Carol wants to find her lost daughter.

Carol in particular is a fascinating character. After she loses both husband and child, what’s next for her? No longer a wife, no longer a mother. What do we do with that kind of woman, besides plug her back into a love interest or care-taker slot? What can she have now, that she couldn’t have before? There is a gap in her motivation, then, and we know, as readers, that this vacuum must be filled if we are to continue to care about what happens to her.
Similarly, Sheriff Rick Grimes is an excellent character to helm a show about lawlessness and anarchy. What does it mean to have honor, to serve and protect, in a dangerous world where the dead are unyieldingly, monolithically amoral? 
Like Rick, fellow police officer Shane, also struggles with this. He wants to care for and protect people, but he arrives at his definition of what this means much earlier than Rick does. So they are at odds, twins with common purpose, but also with common competition: who will win Lori; who will be the leader; whose definition will carry the day as they struggle to survive.
Plot: States of The Monster
The Walking Dead’s fast-paced plot is often lauded. This is largely due to the nature of the Monster in the (ZA). The zombie as a monster is balanced with strengths (numbers, no need for sleep, single-minded desire) and weaknesses (lack of consciousness or community, very limited intelligence). But the rapacious nature of the zombies keeps the living on the run, unlike vampires, who must close things down during the day, or werewolves who only get to shine once a month. To paraphrase Murphy McManus in The Boondock Saints: The zombies are like 7-11; they might not always be doing business, but they’re always open.
Christopher Booker describes in The Seven Basic Plots the three states of the monster: monster as predator (actively pursuing his victims/goals); monster in holdfast (withdrawn to his lair, brooding over stolen treasure or kidnapped princess); and monster as avenger (unpredictable, lashing out without strategy). There is no holdfast for the zombies in The Walking Dead. They never rest; they can live without nourishment; they only stop when their brains are destroyed. The zombies are death itself, death come to vivid and disgustingly rotted life, always surrounding the characters in the story. Death is like that, anyway, in our real lives; but this story has presented death not as a concept but as an embodied ambulatory theme: death as a monster that we can see and touch, death, as a monster that never leaves us. 

There is so much more to analyze from The Walking Dead’s narrative elements. Setting, for example, is a big part of the show being so vivid, as is the use of time in flashbacks and dreams. Point-of-view shifts constantly, tweaking our sympathies for each character, which also adds dramatic tension. The show is a goldmine, really. Start watching if you haven’t. And if you’re up for more writing lessons and analytical dorkery, join me on Twitter, October 13, 8:00 pm CST when Season 4 premieres on AMC.
**
About Carrie Mesrobian
Carrie Mesrobian is a native Minnesotan. A former high school Spanish instructor, Carrie currently teaches at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her writing has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Brain, Child magazine, and Calyx. Her debut young adult novel, Sex & Violence(Carolrhoda LAB) received stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy, will be released in fall of 2014. She currently lives with her husband (Adrian), daughter (Matilda) and dog (Pablo), all of whom are pretty excellent.  Find out more than you probably want to know here: www.carriemesrobian.com 

Book Review: Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick

A bolt of bright yellow light sprang from the dark. Nearly blinded by the glare, Alex squinted and would have put a hand up if she hadn’t needed both to hang on. Belatedly, she realized that the light must be for her. The Changed saw very well in the dark. She saw Wolf, his legs braced against rock, dangling from some kind of crude rope harness looped around both thighs.

Sniffed me out, just like I caught his scent earlier this morning. Came to get me. Had he tracked them all along? Possibly. The Changed followed a route, kept to a pattern. So maybe Wolf had bided his time, waiting to see if she was still alive, then planned a way to get her out. Before the Zap, when Wolf was Simon Yeager and not a monster, maybe he and his friends had done a lot of rock climbing, exploring all the ins and outs of the Rule mine.

Then she remembered: Tom. Her heart stuttered. Tom had been up there. He’d called to her, and then she’d heard shots. “Did you kill him?” She was so afraid for Tom she thought her chest would break. Was Tom lying dead in the snow because of her? “If you killed him, if you hurt him . . .”

Wolf said nothing. He couldn’t. But now that he was so close, she smelled something else in all that mist and shadow: a scent sweet and . . gentle, a light perfume of lilacs and honeysuckle. Her dad’s face suddenly flickered in a quick flashbulb of memory: Jump to me, sweetheart.
“Safe.” The word slipped off her tongue. For an instant, where she was, what was happening, ceased to matter. It was as if she and Wolf had slipped into a private, silent, well-lit room built only for them. And not only safe. . . “Home,” she whispered. “Family?”

The scent deepened. His face smoothed, and for a second, there was the ghost of Chris- the lips she had kissed, the angles and planes of a face her fingers knew- and she felt her monster suddenly reach; was aware of an ache and a fiery burn that was need and desire flowing like lava through her veins.

The monster knows Wolf. This was new, as was the hard throb in her neck and the claw of something so close to raw, red yearning that she felt the rake of it across her chest. What the hell was going on? The times her mind had sidestepped from her to end up behind the eyes of the Changed- Spider, Leopard, Wolf- had been few, and mainly in response to their intense emotion, not hers. Long ago, Kincaid wondered if her tumor was reorganizing, the monster becoming something separate and distinct from her. God, and now it has. The monster wants Wolf.

“No, I’m in control,” she ground out, no longer sure whether she spoke to the monster or Wolf. She clung to the rock. “I’m Alex. I’m not a mon-“

CRACK!

A yelp bulleted from her mouth. The sound, somewhere to her left, had been enormous. At first, Alex thought she saw more water, a wide stream running a jagged dark course over stone. But then there were more snaps and cracks, the crisp sounds like thick ice over a deep lake in the dead of winter, because ice is restless, never still, always in flux, the stress building and building to the breaking point. Before her eyes, that jagged seam became a black lightning bolt, growing wider and darker and longer . . . Water still swirled around her waist, but now she also detected an insidious tug, much stronger than before.

From above came a hard bang and a thunk as rocks ricocheted and rebounded before slamming down in a stony fusillade. Crack! The rock wall squealed, singing with the strain.Crack-CRACK!

And that was when the Uzi actually moved.

Terror blazed through her veins. Almost without thinking, she sprang, her right hand splayed in a grab. If her ankle shrieked, she didn’t feel it. All she saw were Wolf’s hands, the one knotted in her parka and the other, gloved, clinging to the taut snake of rope that would have to be strong enough to hold them both. She felt his wrist sock into her palm, and then she was swinging a half-assed trapeze move as Wolf whipped her, hard and fast, like a stone in a bolo, trying to fold her against his chest. He might have done it, too. He had the strength she lacked, and he was solidly anchored besides. But then the Uzi shifted again, a sharp jolt down that knocked the breath from her chest.

She missed, dropping as the rock crumbled beneath her feet. Skating away, the Uzi was swept in a sudden tidal surge into this new and ever-expanding fissure, one that had grown so wide it was a sideways grin and then a toothless leer and then a black scream that matcher her own.
In the next instant, the wall shattered and split and opened with a roar.

The Review:

In the conclusion to the Ashes trilogy, everyone is fighting, and no one seems to be on the same side. Alex is fighting against Wolf and his pack of Changed even while learning their secrets, and while fighting against the monster in her head. Chris has left Rule and has fallen in with a band of travelers who may or may not be his salvation- if he can survive. And Tom has found refuge with a band former military vets who have the destruction of Rule their main goal, and have the perfect solider in Tom, especially when they twist tales of Chris’s and Alex’s relationship. Threatened by The Changed, the Saved, and everyone else, will Alex, Tom, and Chris be able to survive the darkest hours? Or will they finally fall to their foes?

Those who loved Ashes and Shadows will love the action in Monsters- it does NOT let up, just shifts points of view through the huge cast of characters that Black has created throughout her series. Familiar characters in the previous books come back for the final book, and almost all of the plot lines (see after the spoiler space for one that bugged me) are tied up relatively neatly (who are Wolf and the others, and what are their relationships to those in Rule? Why are the ones against Rule working from within?) in a huge and satisfying conclusion that is not a nice, neat, or pretty bow, unlike so many other series’ conclusions.  The narration does jump back and forth between characters frequently, so a close reading is recommended. 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely pair with other zombie fiction series such as Rot and Ruin or The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

SPOILER SPACE


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I read the whole series back to back, and even I had a bit of trouble keeping track of the narration and cast of characters in Monsters, so I was really glad that there was at least a small guide in the back of the book. I would have been happier if it had been in the front- it detailed what happened to who in the first two books. For those who had waited a year between Shadows and Monsters, it might be a bit hard to keep track of who Greg was, or Sarah.

I really enjoyed the detail and the writing within the story, and the fact that (as my teens say) Black used “big words.” Sometimes, it seems that YA literature does not use the full beauty and complexity of the English language, which can challenge teens, but they want and need that in writing- otherwise they can grow stagnant.

I really liked the fact that Alex was the main focus, and Alex was the one to save herself, although the whole thing with the love …triangle? I guess you’d call it square since it’s her, Tom, Chris, and Wolf… stuff gets really weird after a while. There are some scenes in there where it seems like Alex is really losing it, and falling for Wolf seems to be part of it. I adore the climax, however, and I really do like the end.

The one thing that bugged me, however, that probably won’t bug a lot of readers, is that they never explained what set off the EMP. At the beginning of Ashes and the whole series, everything is set in motion by a huge electromagnetic pulse. I get that- I understand science things. But no one explains where it came from; we get the science of the Changed, and the biology of what may or may not happen in the future, so we can know what will happen with Chris and the others, but there’s no explanation of WHY anything happened. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and it is just a smudge in my overall enjoyment of the series, but it’s still a buggy, naggy thing.

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Book Review: Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi

“It might be kind of funny, if the cows weren’t trying to eat you . . . “

It’s easy to dismiss zombie books, and I see it happen often.  Yes, zombie books have – by definition – some type of zombie in them.  But zombie books are most often a layered reading experience, there is subtext and nuance.  And Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi is no different.

The apocalypse begins on a day like any other day.  Rabi, Miguel and Joe are having baseball practice when a horrible smell, much worse than normal, explodes out of the town’s meatpacking plant.  Soon, a zombie is trying to eat them.  They are trying to let the town know but there are a lot of forces working against them, because some people want to keep the secret hidden, people with money and power.  And if there is anything worse than a zombie, it is a person with money and power who will go to any length to protect their secrets.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown has zombies and baseball, that is true (and fun).  But it is also a book about bullying, racism, corporate power, and factory farming.  Bacigalupi manages to weave all these themes into the books without bogging it down and still entertaining readers.  When I closed this book I was both entertained and so very grateful that an author had managed to present these important topics to younger readers in a way that may plant a seed and get them thinking about very relevant issues.

Diversity

Rabi is Indian (real Indian, not Native American he informs his friends) and Miguel is Mexican-American.  So our main cast of characters manages to embrace diversity and talk realistically about the issues facing them.  Miguel has already lost some family members to deportation and it is a very realistic threat that hangs over him throughout the book.  Bacigalupi manages to get kids thinking about diversity and racism without hitting them over the head with the issue.  In comparison, I felt that Darren Shan was trying to accomplish the same things with Zom-B but he had a much more heavy-handed approach that often derailed the narrative.  It helps that Rabi and Miguel are both characters that you end up routing for, they make some real sacrifices and difficult choices to help others, even those that have hurt them in the past.

Corporate Power and Corruption

In a time when we are seeing the effects of lobbyists and the full ramifications of corporations are people while our government is threatening to shut down because certain individuals are trying to force their will on others, it was very interesting to see the subtle discussion of corporate power and greed in ZBB.  This is an important topic to introduce to young readers and get them thinking about if we want to make sure we are raising a new generation of critical thinkers who will stand up for Democracy and the least of these.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not an anvil over the head type of discussion.  There is simply a very well depicted character that is slick and slimy; he is able to use his powers of persuasion effectively for a while on our heroes until they begin to see the seedy underside of who he is and what he is doing.  And then the gloves come off.  This was a very fascinating and well written part of the story.

Factory Farming

From GMOs to factory farming, there is a lot of discussion happening in our culture regarding how we produce, market and distribute our food.  It’s not a topic that many young readers are thinking about, but it should be if we want to raise informed consumers.  Gacigalupi manages to take the issues to an extreme – it is the factory farming practices that this plant uses that creates the zombies – in order to get you thinking about the issue.  Infects by Sean Beaudoin does the same thing, but it is definitely for a more mature audience.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown is a fantastic read.  It is entertaining for zombie fans, but manages to get to the meat of some current cultural issues in the subtext.  See what I did there – meat.  Get it? Oh, never mind.  You can read it for fun or use it as a sounding board to start fleshing out some relevant and timely issues.  Flesh out.  Hehe.  See, I did it again.  As a bonus, there are zombie cows! This is a great book for all types of readers, including reluctant ones: There is sports, zombies, tense life or death situations (the zombie attack at the baseball game is epic). Sometimes funny, often icky, always fun, Zombie Baseball Beatdown manages to be two books in one without failing at either level.  Definitely recommended.

Themes: Bullying, Activism, Racism, Corporate Power and Corruption, Food Industry.  Published September 2013 by Little, Brown.  ISBN: 978-0-316-22974-6.

Book Review: Sick by Tom Leveen and ARC Giveaway

“There’s a whole bunch of really scared people out there,” Kat says. “They’re going to need to be dealt with.”

Something about the words she chose makes my skin crawl.

Jaime takes a cautious step away from the door, as if to make sure no one is going to try to bust through from the hall. “What are we going to tell them? he asks us. “About the food?”

“We’re not gonna be here long enough for it to matter,” Chad says.

“We might be,” Ravis argues.

“This is the United States of America,” Kat says, pretty calm under the circumstances. “We’re not in Rwanda here, you guys. Someone’ll show up, we’ve just got to sit tight.”

“Naw, no,” Chad says, wagging his head. “We gotta get the hell out is what we gotta do.:
“Where’s the key,” I ask Jaime. “To the bike lock.”


Jaime pats his pockets; keys jingle. “I got it. It’s safe.”

Chad squints at him. “Now wait just a damn minute,” he says. “Who the hell put you in charge?”

“Why does it matter?” Jaime retorts. “Thought you were getting out of here.”


“Listen, you Mexican piece of sh–“

“All right, stop,” I say, interrupting Chad as Jaime clamps his mouth tight. “You saw what happened to my cell. Jaime was right. We’re the only ones trying to be, like, proactive here. Far as I’m concerned, those idiots in the hall can flip out all they want. Until someone in a flak vest rappels into the auditorium, we’re it.

They look at each other. Jaime nods, relaxing ever so slightly while Chad sneers. I remind myself that we’re all under stress, a metric shit-ton of it. Otherwise Chad wouldn’t have said anything like that to Jaime. No way.

“Now, I won’t speak for anyone else,” I got on, “but I know for a fact that my sister is alive in the library. With other people, by the sound of it. So one way or another, I’m going in there to get her out. Meanwhile, you can all dickslap each other for who gets to be the Big Bad. But I got work that needs getting done.”

“This is the safest place to be right now,” Jaime says.

“Okay,” Chad says, shrugging. “Okay. Cool. That’s true. Oh, and by the way, how’s your little brother holding up?”

Jaime freezes so still and complete it unnerves me. I feel my legs tense, ready to jump in between him and Chad if he goes nuts.

Instead, Jaime turns around, away from Chad. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, the tension in his shoulders melts, until his entire boyd seems to sag.

“You’re right,” he says quietly.

“Not tryin’ to be a dick,” Chad says. “I’m just sayin’.”

Jaime turns to me. “If you did get to your sister, then what? Try to get off campus?”

I sit down on Golab’s fake leather couch and hold my head in both hands. “I hadn’t gotten that far yet.”

“Wait a sec,” Travis says. “I thought you wanted to stay holed up in here, Jaime.”

“For the most part, yeah,” Jaime says. “But I also want to go get my little brother. And go home.

Being a teenager sucks. You’re not an adult, but not really a kid anymore. We spend most of our time pushing for all the adult stuff. Cars and money and all that. But when Jaime says home like that, I swear to God I drop to six years old because I understand instantly what he means.
I just want to go home too.


Brian and Chad are definitely not part of the in-crowd at Phoenix Metro High School; in fact, they can more often be found cutting class and know all the ways to hop the super armed fence and security around their high school campus. However, when a virus spreads around the town and turns the PMHS into a zombie feeding ground because of those security measures, Brian and Chad must fight their way through the school and the horde to rescue Brian’s sister and his ex-girlfriend, and anyone else still alive while breaking their way out of the school. Joined by members of their theater class, they witness horrors they cannot have possibly imagined before and are pushed beyond the boundaries of imagination. 

Leveen’s first splash into horror, Sick is definitely not for the faint of heart, and those who shy away from vivid details should look elsewhere- descriptions of mutilations (tearing of flesh, breaking of bones) echo throughout the pages, and the cannibalism that ensues once the victims come down with the zombie virus gives films like Resident Evil or World War Z (the movie) a run for their money. 

That said, Leveen’s characters are extremely detailed and the world absolutely gripping to readers who adore the genre. Definitely a recommended read for reluctant readers who want a good, classic zombie storyline. (Reader/Librarian warning: extreme gore, violence, and bad language throughout the book). 3 out of 5 stars. 

Pair with current zombie books like Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series, or the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology, more adult titles like World War Z and The Walking Dead novelizations or graphic novels, or even non-fiction titles such as The Zombie Survival Guide or The Official Zombie Handbook.

Sick comes out October 1, 2013; want to win our ARC? Tell us your FAVORITE zombie movie or zombie book in the comments, along with your Twitter handle or your email so we can contact you if you win! Drawing will be held October 8. Open to U.S. Residents.