From Atria Books, 2011
When it came time to write my first recommendation for the blog I immediately thought of Warm Bodies. I read the book back in January and fell in love with the characters. Yes, I fell in love with a zombie. The thing is, there’s a question about whether this book qualifies as YA fiction. Of the two main characters, Julie is definitely a teenager. She’s nineteen and lives with her father. It’s harder to say about the protagonist R. He doesn’t even remember his own name – just that it likely begins with an R. There’s no way he can tell us how old he was before he died. Since this story is a futuristic retelling of Romeo and Juliette one of the original teenage romances, I’m leaning towards calling it YA. Talk about your star-crossed lovers.
The book’s been out for a while. It was even Indie published back in 2009. My first experience with this title though was on a coming attraction at the movie theater last fall. I was captivated by the idea that a zombie could possibly feel remorse for doing what zombies do…eat brains. Plus, it looked hilarious and I had to find out more. When I Googled the author I found his website (www.isaacmarion.com) telling about how this started out as a short story that was rewritten into a novel around the same time the movie rights were purchased. This drew me in even further. For those of you who haven’t read the book or haven’t seen the movie and its trailers (same name, released February 2013), let me explain the premise: The future world is in ruin and a plague has descended. Anyone who dies becomes a zombie unless their brain is removed. R is a zombie who ‘lives’ at an abandoned airport with a bunch of other zombies and some skeletons known as ‘boneys.’ Every now and then a group of zombies takes a walk down the deserted interstate to the city for dinner. Their preference is to eat the human brain because it gives them a feeling of humanity. The effect is that this will temporarily cause them to experience the victim’s memories. A sort of ‘mortal high’ (I’m so glad Isaac Marion cleared that up. I always wondered why zombies went for the brain).
On one of these outings, R is eating a guy’s brain and he feels how much the guy loved this one girl named Julie. When R looks up, Julie’s there in the room. R is compelled to save her, takes her to the old airplane he calls home and then everything starts changing…for the better. Let me say that I am not one to enjoy blood and gore, but this author handled that in a way that made it not so disgusting to read. You don’t blame R for what he is. We know he can’t help it and we feel for him.
The story is a quick read, but I found it very poignant. When I reached the end of the book I kept it on my bedside table for a long time. These characters set up house in my head and I wasn’t ready to let them go. It took the library due date to make me turn them over. Luckily I read on Isaac Marion’s website that he is writing a sequel. I can’t wait. He already has a prequel out (see his website above).
Read the book…even if you saw the movie. You’ll be glad you discovered the wit and charm of Issac Marion’s writing.