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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)