Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Are zombies the next big thing?  With this amazing novel, they just might be! 

Fifteen-year-old Benny has grown up in a zombie-infested world, where his town is fenced in to protect the living from hordes of undead.  Cared for by his older brother who Benny despises, Benny tries to find work in his small town.  Unable to find a job, Benny reluctantly agrees to be his brother’s apprentice, even though his brother is not nearly as cool as the other bounty hunters who head out into the wilderness to slay zombies.  As Benny begins to work with his brother, he discovers that there is much more to killing zombies than he thought.  There are also a lot more ways to be human too. 

Maberry has melded the zombie apocalypse world with a coming of age story.  The combination makes for a zombie book with plenty of action and blood, but also one with lots of heart.  Benny is a great lens to view this world through, allowing the reader to discover along with him the truth of the world he lives in.  Maberry’s writing is wonderfully varied.  At times pausing to linger on points, view the wildness of the landscape and storms, and at others rushing into battle scenes with a whipping pace that will have readers breathless. 

The characters here are well crafted, motivated in understandable ways, and have a variety of reactions to this world they have found themselves in.  The reactions are real, honest and believable.  The world building really works well too.  While there are many questions left unanswered about what brought about the zombies rising, those are questions that are deftly built into the story line.  It works well even with the questions.  We can look ahead to more books in the series that could begin to answer them. 

The cover alone will sell this book, but it is also a great choice for teen book talks.  Set the stage of the zombie world and you will have teens lining up to read this one.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

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