Rating: 3.5 stars
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The world seems normal. Molly wants nothing more than to be a star; her twin brother Walt has a huge heart but has to keep his sexuality a secret for fear of being disowned; Jill is a former porn star who is now working as a nurse; Ace is a former cop turned security guard at the hospital; and Joey is subjecting himself to medical experiments so that he can have enough money to get himself and his best friend out of town. What none of them know is that the zombie apocalypse has started, infecting everyone. People all over the world are falling into a deep, coma-like sleep, only to “wake up” as the walking dead.
When they realize what is going on with the zombies, Walt and Molly go on the run, finding themselves at the hospital. Banding together with Jill, Joey, and Ace seems like the safest bet, because everyone knows there is safety in numbers, even if you don’t completely trust everyone you’re with. Together, they fight off the zombies that are threatening to make a meal out of them. Walt and Joey find an instant connection, falling in love at first sight. And Walt makes it his mission to protect Joey. But zombies aren’t the only threat after the group. And not everyone is going to make it out alive.
I’m going to be honest here. I wanted to like this book more than I did. There were a few issues that I had with it that kept me from really enjoying it. The writing was fantastic, and the action scenes kept me on the edge of my seat. Facing down a horde of zombies, the characters manage to come out alive, time and again. There were times I was holding my breath, waiting to see how they were going to get out of trouble. I even liked all the little connections between the characters that they were unaware of. It added something to the story for me, knowing things the characters didn’t know about themselves.
But the way the book was structured pulled me out of the story at times. Each of the characters speaks in the first person so we have five POV characters in alternating chapters. They all had a distinctive voice and were well developed, so it wasn’t hard to follow whose chapter it was. But the constant bouncing around dampened the enjoyment for me a bit. Especially when there were partial repeats of scenes from a different character’s POV, or when we jumped to another character and had to wait to get back to what was left waiting. Sometimes, it took me a few seconds to get my brain back to where we were.
The story was also a bit slow to start. There was a lot of buildup and meeting and getting to know the characters before the zombies showed up. And you knew they were going to, you just didn’t know when. Despite this, there wasn’t a whole lot of lead in to the zombie apocalypse. The characters were just going along with their regular lives, only noticing that there seemed to be fewer people around or seeing a news story about a strange infection, until the zombies show up out of nowhere. I would have liked to see a bit more of a lead up, a little more explanation as to the why and how, but this actually worked really well here so I was able to overlook my curiosity.
Once the zombies appear, this is where the action really starts. On the run from zombies, having to kill the walking dead just to escape, the pacing picked up and I was completely along for the ride. But while this was all going on, the author chose to add some additional subplots. To be honest, I found them unnecessary. I think it took away from the overall “desperate to survive” feeling and bogged the story down. There was a bit too much going on for me to be fully invested in any of the subplots.
McGivney also makes use of copious flashbacks. Each of the characters did a lot of remembering about things that happened in the past. Sometimes, this worked really well to explain a certain emotion that a character was feeling. At other times, it yanked me from the story going on at the time, and I found myself anxious to get back to the story at hand. I should also mention that it is through these flashbacks that one of the characters talks about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father in a blunt, and sometimes disturbing, way. While it seems she feels she’s gotten past it, there are several instances where it is talked about.
For me, Ace was a completely unlikable character. There were moments when I started to feel sorry for him, hoped for a redemption. But then he would do or say something that was offensive, and I was back to disliking him. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to like him. But it sealed the deal when he tried to rape another character, thinking it was his due. At that point, he was unredeemable for me.
Because we spend time with each of the five MCs, the romance aspect between Walt and Joey definitely takes a back seat. It wasn’t the main focus of the story. There is instalove between them, they know right away they want to be with each other, but because we don’t spend a lot of time with them, it feels just a bit contrived. I couldn’t always see their connection. Walt is a big hearted guy, so it makes sense that he wants to take care of Joey, to whom he is instantly attracted. But I couldn’t quite make the leap with them to love so quickly. They barely know each other. The moments between them were sweet and heartfelt but while emotions are heightened when struggling to survive, I think I would have been happier if they’d skipped the love declarations. Having them together and ready to face the zombie horde was enough.
Overall, the writing was really solid, even if there was a bit too much going on. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes their stories jam packed with a lot of subplots, and who likes to see zombies get killed.