Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: The Dead, by Charlie Higson (2011, Hyperion)

Recommended for ages 14-18

A zombie-like plague is ravaging London. Anyone under 16 is a target. What happens in a world where the adults have turned on the kids?
The second in Charlie Higson’s Enemy series, The Dead is a prequel of sorts to Enemy. The story takes place in London as a worldwide disease outbreak affects people age 16 and over that causes them to attack and consume anyone younger.
The Dead follows a group of students at an English boarding school at the onset of the disease and their journey to find a safer haven. Best friends Jack and Ed swear to stick together, but Jack is frustrated with Ed’s seeming impulse to panic and flee rather than engage.
The group of boys escape the school, liberating other students, including one, Matthew, who now believes that he is God’s messenger. The boys find temporary salvation Greg, a butcher from the countryside, pulls up in a school bus and saves them from an adult attack. He’s traveling with his young son, Liam, and a group of schoolgirls, but Jack sees his erratic behavior and realizes that Greg is sick, too. The group makes their way to the Imperial War Museum in London, meeting a group of boys already living there; they plan to evacuate as a fire engulfing London is closing in and the adults are coming closer. Some of the boys board an abandoned grocery truck and some board a sightseeing boat and head for Tower Bridge and South London, with the intention of meeting at the Tower of London.
The Dead will keep teens turning pages. A fast-paced horror novel, Mr. Higson creates characters with just enough background to give them some dimension, and forms solid relationships between the characters – relationships that readers will relate to. He creates a wide range of characters, including the get-it-done Jack, the cowardly Kwanele, who decides to avoid the reality of their situation by focusing solely on his wardrobe, the bookish Chris, who believes that in order to rebuild society, he needs to save books, and Ed, whose character growth frames the novel as he goes from scared to fierce. The older teens protect the younger boys even as they tease them. The girls are portrayed as boys would see them – shrieking, obnoxious, but oddly attractive at the same time. Boy readers in particular will relate to this range of characters and the fast-paced action.
The Dead was Shortlisted for the Independent Booksellers Book Award (2011).
Author Charlie Higson’s website offers information about his books, book trailers, his schedule, contact information, and television appearances.

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