Thursday, March 7, 2013

Warm Bodies Review

Years ago, during the height of the vampire obsession, an acquaintance predicted that zombies were going to be the next craze. I didn't really buy it because part of the supernatural YA genre tends to be a love triangle or at least a love story. And really, how could that happen with zombies? It just seemed too ridiculous to buy.

And then I heard of Warm Bodies, maybe when I first heard about the movie. I read a description of the book and thought it just sounded incredibly stupid. And the movie trailers and posters didn't make it any better. I like Nicholas Hoult, or at least I did in X-Men: First Class. But the movie just looked incredibly cheesy.

But then I started teaching a dystopian literature class and made a shelfari page for all of these dystopian books for my kids to chose from. Warm Bodies was one of the books purchased for the class and after a few friends on facebook liked the movie, I decided to check out the book.

And really, I was pleasantly surprised. The writing itself is lovely. I highlighted passages all over the place that I found meaningful and well-written.

The story itself is also fine. "R" is a zombie, one of the Dead wandering the world after an unnamed disaster. Since this story is from his perspective, the reader gets to see how the zombies of this world have their own little community in an abandoned airport. R and his friend M sit over moldy coffee in the airport cafe. There is a weird group of skeletal zombies called Boneys who seem to be the leaders or priests of the community. There is even school for little zombies - learning how to properly and effectively kill humans.

R longs for more though. He wishes to remember details about his human life, including his name. He lives in an airplane, which he fills with memorabilia from the world of the Living. You see, in Warm Bodies, when a zombie eats a human's brain, they get a sensory rush as they are immersed in the memories/lives of that human. R craves this high, which leads him on a hunting trip early in the book.

On this fateful trip, he kills and eats the brain of Perry, a morose young man who had been in love with Julie, the daughter of General Grigio, who rules one of the stadiums full of the Living. R is flooded by Perry's memories (which persist throughout the book; Perry becomes the voice of R's conscience) and protects Julie, smearing her with zombie blood and bringing her home to his airport. She is naturally freaked out but comes to realize that she is safe with him (not so much with the other zombies) and they figure out how to communicate. R has Perry's memories and knows that Julie loves Thai food, so he finds her some frozen dishes from the airport food court. She stays for a few days with him but eventually convinces him that she needs to return home.

Home for Julie is a massive sports stadium that has been turned into a city for the remnants of humanity. There are a few different stadiums scattered throughout American protecting those who are left. It's a miserable existence, filled with training to fight zombies and very little joy. Julie is haunted by her mother's death, as is her father, who is a bit of an alcoholic. But still, she belongs with the living. And so R takes her back. They have to escape the Boneys first though. All of the airport zombies seem aware that something strange is happening with R given his affection for a human. Change is definitely in the air. His friend M helps them to escape so Julie can return home. R gets her back safely, but is lost without her.

He decides to return to the stadium on his own. Fortunately he is in fairly good shape; despite his pallor and eye color, he looks fairly human. Using M and some other zombies who followed them out as a distraction, he slips into the stadium and finds Julie and her friend Nora. They use makeup to make him look even more human and for a time, they happily hang out together. Until they go to a bar and R gets drunks (this is another sign that he is becoming more human; alcohol clearly should not affect him). This leads to him biting someone in self-defense, which of course reveals his presence. He and Julie flee the stadium together only to find a veritable army of zombies, all of whom are drawn to whatever is happening to R as a result of his relationship with Julie.

This leads to an inevitable showdown between the stadium and the zombies, with General Grigio leading the charge against R and his pack. Grigio is blinded to the changes happening before his eyes and is unable to accept the evolving Dead as anything more than the rampaging killers they've always been. Clearly this is to his detriment.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the writing. And I enjoyed how the book was a bit more adult (with curses and references to drinking and smoking pot) than I would have expected from the typical supernatural YA romance. The ending was a bit abrupt and I think required more explanation but in the end, I liked it a lot, as did one of my 8th graders who read it after I presented a power point to the class on the book. It's definitely a unique story and not as stupid or cheesy as I thought it would be.

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble 

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