Darren Shan is popular with kids of all ages. His Cirque du Freak, Demonata and The Saga of Larten Crepsley series have been bestsellers. He’s got a new series. And ZOM-B is the first book. Considering the nonstop action—the zombie apocalypse explodes about halfway through the book, but its beginnings in Ireland are described in a prologue—this is really a teen book, one that will appeal to even the most reluctant readers.
Sitting in front of the television in their London home, ‘B’, just like Dad, doesn’t believe that the zombie footage on the news is real. The zombies appear to be attacking a rural Irish town, and everyone in England thinks it’s just a stunt for a new movie.
As B, Dad and Mum interact, we see learn a lot. B’s dad is a racist and a brute. He beats his wife, and B as well if B tries to stop the beatings. And B does try.
B is growing up to be like father. Terrible at school, a petty thief, a vandal, and a bully, as a protagonist, it would be hard to have any sympathy for B except that somewhere in that dark soul, there appears to be a kernel of light.
B has one Black friend and keeps that a secret from Dad in order to avoid a beating. B harasses people of color (Indians—from India, not Native Americans—this is England—as well as Blacks) and Muslims at every chance, while claiming not to be a racist.
At a museum display about the Holocaust, B gets a sense of the horrors that racism can cause. B also acts heroically in helping a baby, who is Indian. While the rest of the community is giving B props, Dad tells him that he shouldn’t have helped any Indian, even a baby. And this is where a major conflict comes into the novel.
B both loves and hates Dad and can’t reconcile these emotions. And Shan does a great job of showing what this is like for a teen coming from a racist home with a brutal dad. In fact, I thought the tension in the family was better stuff than the zombie scare. But the appearance of zombies in London will force B to start connecting to all sorts of people if B and others are to survive.
This is a short book with black and white illustrations, some of which are of zombies munching on the students and teachers at B’s high school. It’s a super quick read and ends with “to be continued.” So while you’re having scary fun living through the horror story, you’ll also be forced to question prejudice. And you’ll be waiting for the next title to come out. Not bad for a few hours’ reading. Try it.