By Daniel Waters
“Zombie” is not a polite term to use when referring to the Differently Biotic (DB) teens who inexplicably come back from death. Even more inexplicable is that this only happens to teenagers living in America. Could it be from all the preservatives in fast food? Too many video games? Aliens? No one knows.
Most of the alive, or Traditionally Biotic (TB), teens at Oakvale High are pretty freaked out by the DB kids in their classes and the new “DB Friendly” label that Oakvale just received. More than freaked out, Phoebe is curious. Specifically, she’s curious about Tommy Williams, a rather handsome DB guy in her class who seems to be able to function better than most of his DB counterparts. He even goes out for the football team and holds his own against giants like Phoebe’s best friend and neighbor, Adam.
Cue Teen Book Love Triangle. Phoebe is developing a crush on Tommy while Adam is discovering his undying love for Phoebe. At the same time, Pete, one of Adam’s teammates and the definite “bad guy” in the book, is determined to rid Oakvale of all zombies and isn’t afraid to hurt anyone, alive or not, who gets in his way.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but after reading the first chapter, it was hard to tear myself away. The action is nicely paced and the characters are quirky and well developed, which was a surprise to me. I’m not sure how you make zombies sympathetic, but Waters did it. He also developed the villainous Pete well. Even though Pete’s actions and intentions are based on ignorance and fear, he is believable and even a little understandable.
Waters is a talented world-builder and reveals just enough of the answers to the burning questions in the novel to keep pages turning. I had a couple of problems with this book, however. The novel itself had some grammatical errors that could have easily been fixed before publication, and a stronger editor would have realized that referring to characters by both their first and their last names, but not together, is confusing.
My main issue with “Generation Dead,” however, is one of focus. Waters builds the conflict of prejudice and acceptance using the relationship between Phoebe and Tommy as a way to set up the most extreme reactions … at least, that’s how I interpreted the Teen Book Love Triangle aspect of the plot. I was pretty excited that Waters wasn’t relying on the prolific formula: Supernatural Being and Human Romance + Action and Near Death Experiences = No. 1 Bestseller. Instead, he seemed to be focusing on good vs. evil and the very “teen” issue of finding acceptance within yourself and in your high school. I was giddy with excitement at the new twist to this age-old problem. Therefore, I was willing to overlook some of the weaknesses of the writing and grammar.
Then the book ended. It ended with quite a cliffhanger, in fact. But instead of ending with the epic battle of good (Phoebe, Tommy and Adam) vs. evil (Pete), it ended with the epic drama of Teen Book Love Triangle. I’ve read that story before and while zombies are new on the scene, the love triangle between a supernatural being and a human is certainly not.
Despite the ending, “Generation Dead” is worth the read. For those who love the Teen Book Love Triangle storylines, especially ones with supernatural characters, this book is well worth the read. I, apparently, wasn’t in the mood.
“Generation Dead” is appropriate for teens and adults.
Cari Boatright Rérat is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.