So I'm 0-2 for the being judgy on the last books I've read and then been totally wrong. Isn't it so nice to be wrong? To think something's going to suck and then it doesn't suck at all? Delightful!
Benny Imura lives in a "safe" town. As safe as can be, since First Night, when the dead rose. Benny doesn't really remember a time before the zoms, although he does have a memory of First Night. That was when Benny's brother Tom grabbed him and ran away, leaving their mother to die. Benny resents Tom, and they've never gotten along since. Tom kills zombies for a living, and now that Benny is 15, he needs to find a job too. Tom offers to take Benny on as his apprentice, and eventually Benny agrees. Benny discovers that Tom isn't like the rest of the bounty hunters, and that his perception of the zoms isn't completely true. Benny also realizes that the zoms aren't the only monsters out there.
So yeah, it was another zombie book. So I was all, *groan, eye roll* "What else is there to do with zombies? They're all the same. World ending, depressing, brain eating, etc., etc. After The Forest of Hands and Teeth I have had my fill of all the depressing zombie stories I need, thank you very much." Plus is seemed very boy-focused (which is not bad, but I am not the intended audience) all zombie killing and boys doing stupid things and whatnot. Also, this is another book where the blurb does it a disservice. "Benny Imura couldn't hold a job, so he took to killing." Umm, no. He didn't. That is totally, totally incorrect.
The first couple of chapters fulfilled all my judgy preconceived notions, and then it got really good. I was totally engaged and involved. As I said, there's only so much you can do with the zombies themselves. Soulless, trying to bite people, blight on the world, no one knows why people started to come back, so I appreciated that Maberry went beyond the evil zombie thing and took a look at what it really was, which was a disease. It wasn't their fault, they didn't want it, and the world had let fear be its downfall. We get a very clear idea of what the rest of the world is like now, which other zombie books have not done. I like to know what's happening in the world of the character outside of the town they're in.
Maberry also did a nice job with making comparisons between the zombies, who are the supposed monsters, and humans who do terrible things. Who's worse? The zombies who don't have souls and can't help themselves, or the men who know exactly what they're doing and take advantage of people's fear and weaknesses?
I also liked that there was hope. I need some hope in my books. One of the reasons I didn't like The Forest of Hands and Teeth was that there was no hope at all. What was the point? Everyone was doomed and they were all going to die and there was nothing to live for. Depressing. In Rot & Ruin the younger generation does still have a hope for a better world, where they can truly be safe. Which is important if you're going to have a series, which this is.
I would recommend this for upper middle school or high school. Boys will definitely love it, but girls will be interested as well.
Rot & Ruin came out September 12th.