Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

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Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Unusual and stimulating novel about prejudice and difference. The zombies in high school theme coats serious points with wit and pop culture reference although the plotting is a little heavy-handed.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
ISBN: 1847383270

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Meet Phoebe. She's at high school and is a bit of a Goth. She likes the black clothes and the miserable music. As her friend Adam jokes, every song she listens to has death in the title. But Phoebe's look has taken on a whole new meaning of late. All over America, teenagers who die aren't staying dead. Nobody knows why, but dead adolescents are coming back to life. And some of them are Phoebe's school. The living impaired or differently biotic as they are euphemestically known in today's earnest political correctness, with their jerking gait and their blank, staring eyes, study alongside the living pupils in a very uneasy atmosphere.

Phoebe finds herself drawn to the zombies, in particular to Tommy Williams, but her equally Goth friend Margi does not. As Phoebe tries to make sense of her attraction, lovelorn Adam watches from the sidelines, wishing he could inspire such fascination in her. Tommy tries out for the school football team, almost incites a riot and incurs the vicious enmity of school bully Pete. And Pete isn't the only one who'd like to rid society of this new and sinister phenomenon...

Generation Dead is immensely compelling. It taps into the contemporary fashion for all things horror. Post Buffy, children's literature is full of fantasy books with demons and monsters, werewolves and vampires and zombies. This, however, is more a book about prejudice and about how we treat minority groups in our societies. It's also about young and blighted love. There are no fantasy tropes - the style is kitchen sink drama with humour - another popular style for teen literature. This original blend of subject and style works remarkably well and - as a fan of kitchen sink and eschewer of horror - I found it deeply compelling.

The plot is perhaps a little heavy-handed. I had no doubt as to the eventual outcome very early on, including the clever, but not surprising, moral ambiguity right at the end. But even so, I couldn't put the book down. Waters has an excellent ear for dialogue and taps successfully into the adolescent psyche - Phoebe, Adam and friends are all deeply credible characters. And so are the zombies. Tommy, Karen, and the others aren't cardboard cutouts - and they are capable of failing or flourishing; their moral decisions mirror those of the living teenagers. Do they? Don't they? Should they? Shouldn't they? Do they dare? Will anyone love them? These are universal questions, it seems, whatever one's biotic status.

The whole thing is saved from lumbering by some witty writing and a spot on knowledge of pop culture. It's a credit to Waters that I actually came away from this book almost believing its premise to be possible, even if it did rather creep me out. A great many teenagers are going to love it.

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

My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick is a more traditional zombie tale, while those interested in the social issues in Generation Dead might like The Wave by Morton Rhue.

Booklists.jpg Generation Dead by Daniel Waters is in the Top Ten Books For Children Who Love To Be Scared Silly.
Booklists.jpg Generation Dead by Daniel Waters is in the Top Ten Beach Reads For Teens.
Buy Generation Dead by Daniel Waters at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Generation Dead by Daniel Waters at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Generation Dead by Daniel Waters at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Generation Dead by Daniel Waters at Amazon.com.


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