This review is spoiler free.
‘There are lots of black-hearted, mean-spirited bastards in the world.’ There are some gasps when he swears but most of us take no notice. ‘It’s important that we hold them to account. But always remember that you might be the most black-hearted or mean-spirited of the lot, so hold yourself the most accountable of all.’
Published: 2012, by Simon & Schuster Childrens Books.
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Zombies, Paranormal
Contains: Strong Language, Crude Humour, Violence, Anger, Death, Blood/Gore, Racism, Abuse, Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse, Alcohol, Cannibalism
‘Zom-B’ follows the life of B Smith, a teenage bully trying to balance their reputation and relationships while figuring out exactly the kind of person they want to be. Their father’s an abusive racist, while their mother has her head permanently buried in the sand. However, when the news starts covering a zombie outbreak, they don’t have long before they have to choose; please their father or do what’s right?
Darren Shan’s work has had a special place dedicated to them on my bookshelves for so, so long. His novels were the highlight of my younger teenage years, having always anticipated his next release and saving my pocket money to purchase the next in his series. So, naturally, I felt it was only right to return to his work as an adult. There’s always that looming anxiety when reading childhood favourites of whether you’d enjoy them as much as you used to, but thankfully, this was a mostly positive read.
B Smith is an interesting character. Initially, their narrative was fairly difficult to read. They’re not a good person; they’re selfish, racist and arrogant, but they know all of this themselves. They’re constantly torn between making progress to better themselves and hiding in fear from their father’s abuse. Although, this doesn’t excuse their behaviour, we can’t help but understand and sympathise with them. The development from B at the beginning of the novel to the end highlights this, finally making that decision and acting upon it. Throughout the book, B’s identity is a mystery. Shan relies on the reader making assumptions on who they are – namely their gender – before turning it on its head at the reveal at the end. I loved that. Societies rules on how certain genders should behave has impacted fiction so much, so it’s refreshing to read otherwise.
Their father, however, was insufferable throughout. Successfully intended to make us uncomfortable, B’s father is consistently abusive and rude towards those around him. This message of how influential a parental upbringing can be on a child was cleverly done. Not once does B agree with their father’s remarks, yet they’re powerless to go against them in the fear of being beaten or judged. Regardless of their thoughts on the man, they still repeatedly try to seek his approval, as any child would, meaning they make questionable decisions.
The novel itself is short, it only taking me around two hours to complete. However, it was a fairly slow paced narrative. Being publicized as a zombie horror novel, I expected more of the undead within the pages, but there was only mentions of them until the quick outbreak ending. It didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story, considering this is the first book of a lengthy series, yet I was anticipating a lot more horror than I was given.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, it reminding me exactly why I used to love Shan’s work as a kid; they’re brutally fun afternoon reads.