Zombie Youth: Playground Politics by HE Goodhue is the first in a new series released by Severed Press. I was intrigued by the idea of kids having no one but themselves to rely on after a zombie virus targets the adult population of the world.
While I found this story to be entertaining, I thought it could benefit from better editing. My biggest complaint is that the POVs of the characters all come across in the same voice. The cast is a mix of kids, ranging from grade school to high school, as well as a handful of adults, and there is no real distinction in the way they behave and speak. I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the idea that these are children struggling to survive unspeakable horrors, including a devastating war with some religious zealots. Not only did the characters all carry themselves in a similar manner, but I thought the chapters featuring the changes in the group’s dynamics could have been emphasized more.
My other complaints are not as serious. The cast included too many high school stereotypes, and some characters were too over-the-top. For instance, the janitor was Peruvian, the lunch lady was Haitian, and the gym teacher was Russian…AND, all the adults were raised with tales of the undead, in one form or another…how ridiculously convenient that the few adults to survive are so worldly and knowledgeable about zombies. The POVs switched among the characters without warning, and, at times, the story read more like fan fiction than a serious horror novel.
However, Goodhue did not fail to deliver an action-packed nightmare: a virus kills off most of the adult population, and then they reanimate…and, in some cases, they mutate. Not sure if some adults were naturally immune, but the students and adults that survive the initial slaughter in the school manage to organize themselves, and fortify the gym to withstand the oncoming hordes. Of course, there are always multiple problems in an apocalypse: the local cult has decided the zombies are fulfilling biblical scripture, and bring their (un)holy war to the school survivors.
Even though this book was a bit difficult for me to read through, the epilogue was freaking spectacular! Instead of dropping a cliff-hanger on his readers, Goodhue throws out an angle that is sure to hook everyone into the series. I know I can’t wait for the next installment; I just hope that the sequel is better developed.
Severed Press has been releasing a lot of great zombie novels in the past year or so…I would encourage zombiephiles to add this to their reading list, just for a change from the usual apocalypse setting.