Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters

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Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Satisfying sequel to Generation Dead. Great dialogue and a heartbreaking love story underpin themes of racism and vigilatism.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1847383971

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We left Adam joining the ranks of the zombies after being shot whilst trying to protect Phoebe. So now Phoebe's love triangle has two differently biotic people - Tommy and Adam, and just one beating heart - herself. It's said that love can bring zombies back from the dead more quickly, so Phoebe rejects Tommy in favour of Adam. But it's a tough ask. Adam seems to be taking longer to regain function than many of the other dead kids. Meanwhile, Tommy goes off on a road trip to raise awareness about the zombie plight, and shooter Pete starts community service at the Hunter Centre for Undead Studies. He's sorry that he shot Adam, but his hatred for the living impaired isn't diminished in the least.

I'm not a horror fan, but I loved Kiss of Life and its predecessor, Generation Dead. It has a real kitchen sink feel about it, with its well-developed and credible character relationships. It's as much a discussion of racism, homophobia and vigilantism as it is zombie schlock - in fact, it isn't really zombie schlock at all. Perhaps it's more sci-fi than fantasy, but such distinctions are always blurred for me. Here, I gained much more sympathy for the political Tommy - a high-functioning zombie and campaigner for zombie rights - than I did in the first book, when I found him impenetrable. My sympathies in the Phoebe-Adam-Tommy love triangle had always lain squarely with the living boy, Adam. And it's testament to the intelligence of the book that I keep asking myself why that is.

Phoebe continues on doggedly doing the right thing on the outside, and struggling with her feelings on the inside. She's a person every teenage girl will recognise, as she wonders if she'll ever be truly loved or truly love herself, and how she will know if it ever happens. Pete continues down the path of vigilantism and Waters shows accurately how those at the bottom of the pile - for Pete, it's being valued that's lacking - will do almost anything to ensure that there's at least one person underneath them. His arc is as sad as those of the zombies he persecutes.

And Adam, coming back from the dead more slowly than anyone would like, well, Adam is just stupendous. I loved him in the first book and I love him more now. We see his struggle through his own, heavily punctuated, thought processes and it's absolutely heartbreaking to read. I teared up several times. He's as in love with Phoebe as ever, and he's as prepared to do anything for her, no matter what the cost to himself.

Kiss of Life moves more slowly than Generation Dead and you can feel a bit more setting up for further volumes going on, but I'd become so absorbed in the characters that I didn't mind at all. If you can personalise (I almost said humanise, but there's some confusion in my mind as to the politically correct use of humanise when biotic status is so, well, varied, then I remembered that it's only a story, then thought I'd better put it in so you can see how credibly it's written) social issues through engaging characters, then you raise more awareness than tub-thumping ever will. Waters does do this.

It's credible, it's fashionable, it's got absorbing characters and it gives plenty of pause for thought. Recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Horror fans will also love The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld and the social issues are covered in The Wave by Morton Rhue. The House of Night series is a little bit more sexy and bitey, and a lot less thoughtful, but they'll probably love it.

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