Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Book Review: ZOMBIE TAG by Hannah Moskowitz
Middle Grade contemp/fantasy-ish
Roaring Book Press, 2011
source: ARC provided by author*
In Hannah's MG debut, we get a good dose of the Hannah-isms we've come to love in her YA novels. Her prose is concise, yet emotionally deep. I have to admit, I envy her ability to consistently write "lean and mean." It makes the story move along quickly while keeping a firm grip on your heart.
Especially since this is (yes!) another great story about brothers. There is just something about the bond of brothers that really gets to me. That's why I loved Break and Invincible Summer so much.
Brothers brothers brothers love love love.
Zombie Tag starts with 13 year-old Wil (our fearless zombie-raising hero) playing a game of Zombie Tag with his friends. I don't want to give too much away and reduce your enjoyment of discovering the awesomeness of the game, so all I'm going to tell you is that it involves spatulas, Post-It notes, and a lot of garbled screaming. I wish Zombie Tag had been around when I was a kid. I would have played it every night. Even by myself. I would've made up imaginary fake-zombie friends if I had to.
Whilst relishing in the child-like gaiety of Zombie Tag, Hannah drops in clues about Wil's not-so-pleasant family situation. Namely, that his older brother, Graham, had died during an asthma attack six months prior. This is pretty major, and again, I'm amazed at Hannah's ability to have me belly-laughing on one page, ready to cry on the next, and right back to doubling over with laughter again on the page after that.
So when we put the two elements together. Zombies. Dead brother. Yeah, you guessed it (if you hadn't already just by the book cover), Wil finds a way to bring his brother back to life. But zombie Graham isn't the same as pre-death Graham, and this is where the true conflict of the story lies.
Was his brother better off dead?
I'm very tempted to tag this puppy as "literary fiction" because the focus on character arc is so strong, it threatens to overshadow everything else. Keep your tissues handy. You don't want to ride Wil's emotional roller coaster without them (because the tearful blur makes it hard to read, just saying).
Shameless character plug: EBEN IS THE BEST.
That isn't to imply, however, that the plot is weak. This is one of the most unique story concepts I've ever read, and there are a couple of twists that I didn't see coming. And as emotionally difficult as the ending was to read, it was completely satisfying. I wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way.
If you have yet to read any of Hannah's novels, this is a great one to start with. It has everything I love about her storytelling, her style, and her humor. If you have read her other novels, you might notice some pleasant similarities between Noah (of Invincible Summer) and pre-death Graham. I'll give you a little hint--they're both deep thinkers.
And that's another thing I love about Hannah's characters. They aren't your typical teen fluff or angst of contemporary fiction. They're intelligent people with complex brains.
5 out of 5 stars. Instant favorite. Not your typical zombie book.
Available everywhere as of TODAY. Get on it.
*this in no way affected my review of the material; all opinions stated are honest
About the author:
She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with too many cats. She's afraid of escalators. Her books feature brothers, sexual ambiguity, and babies. She hates camping and was a very poor Girl Scout. She is an English major at the University of Maryland.
She likes milk more than water. Summer more than winter. Love more than hate.
Visit Hannah's blog about the publishing industry or follow her on Twitter.