Doing the zombie shuffle – Zombies in YA literature

img_0443_v2I find zombies scary – there I admit it. I always have done. And I can tell you why; we are just one mad scientist away from zombies becoming real. Zombies worry me, and movies aside, they are certainly not new to literature.

I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at school. It’s only when you get into the nitty gritty of this book you realise it was one of the first ever zombie novels. The creature, albeit more sentient than your average ‘braaaains’ screeching shuffler, is a re-animated corpse. Considered a ‘flawed creation’ by Dr Frankenstein, the creature has to contend with some serious abandonment issues, loneliness (after all zombies are pack creatures) and some rather vengeful thoughts. All in all, the zombie in question doesn’t act much like the zombies we’re use to today.

Moving quickly through the years to Carrie Ryan’s Forrest of Hands & Teeth we find Mary, the protagonist, struggling to free herself from a predictable YA love triangle while avoiding the ‘Unconsercrated’. The name of the zombies in itself echoes the book’s theme of religion; but apart from that, they seem to lumber around the forest being said hands and teeth. The zombies provide only one author objective: they are the threat that seeks to harm the main characters. The only zombie character that comes to ‘life’ is the fast and slightly vengeful, Gabrielle – who seems to retain some of her former personality and is hell-bent on killing Mary for allowing her to die.

Darren Shan’s Zom B uses zombies to unite its characters. One of the themes of this book is racism and yob-like behaviour. Although by its title, it’s a zombie book, the shambling flesh-munching creatures serve as danger and a catalyst for character development. They unite the survivors – regardless of their misguided beliefs.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion did something extraordinary with zombies – he made them the romantic lead. The book is written the first person from R’s point of view. It was a bold move that paid off and put zombies in a different light altogether. After that, Lisa Habel’s Dearly Departed also took zombies firmly into the romance genre.

Now it would seem that zombies are not just evolving but contorting into a new type of ‘monster’. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are going back to their gothic character-driven roots. Who’s to say that if Dr Frankenstein had given his monster a bride that it would have gone very differently for him, and his loved ones.

As a YA urban fantasy writer, I love zombies, and am, to a degree, guilty myself of simply inserting them into my story as a wall of rotting flesh that relentlessly rolls towards my heroes – I did, though, introduce a new dynamic in my series, Battle of the Undead. It’s vampires VS zombies. So what happens when a vampire becomes infected? A Vambie or a Zompire? Find out now with the first in the series, Bad Blood:

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My top ten book list

My own over-stuffed book shelf.

My top ten books.

As I’ve mentioned before, you really can’t be a decent writer if you’re not an avid reader, so in that spirit, I’m listing my top ten recently read books – but don’t worry, although there are brief descriptions there are no spoilers.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins.

Ok, this really counts as three books, but I devoured them so fast that it felt like just the one. Dystopian, political, gruesome (in places) sad (in places) and above all written expertly well – if you haven’t already read them, ask Santa for this trilogy.

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

First person from the zombie’s point of view – need I saw more? Ok, a little more…it has a loose Romeo & Juliet storyline. Is funny and poignant. The film of this will be out next year, so read the book first – just in case the film doesn’t do it justice.

Dark Fever – Karen Marie Moning

Evil alien-like Fae creatures are forcing their way into our world and only one American Southern Belle has the power to stop them! Very Buffy-like in it’s concept and the whole series is thoroughly enjoyable – would love to see this made into a TV series.

Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris

The latest instalment of the Sookie Stackhouse series. I read this in a day! I usually do with the books in this series. It got some mixed reviews about it being overly complicated but, if you love and know the characters the whole thing just gets more intriguing – I was uncertain about the love interest by the end though (read it and you’ll see what I mean)

Incarnation – Emma Cornwall

Taking the point of view of Lucy in Dracula, this Steam Punk story gives us an alternate version of the events that inspired Bram Stoker. Well written and great escapism – although it did take some liberties every now and then.

What’s a Ghoul to Do – Victoria Laurie

I usually find it hard to read ghost stories, but with its fun characters and great premise this one really took me by surprise – A ghost busting psychic detective story which straddles both paranormal and crime novels. Lots of books in the series, so I’m looking forward to working my through to see what MJ Holiday does next.

Masque of the Red Death – Bethany Griffin

A great alternate history steam punk novel that kick starts a trilogy. Interesting concept and compelling characters that really do develop through the book. Manages to paint both a bleak and vivid picture of an alternate Victorian society. Eagerly awaiting the next instalment, which Bethany assures us is under way.

Kitty’s Big Trouble – Carrie Vaughn

I’m a big fan of the Kitty books. She’s a werewolf and a radio show host – what more can you ask for? I like the way the author has developed the character and my particular favourite of this series is ‘Kitty and the House of Horrors’ which was like a supernatural big brother. Big Trouble doesn’t disappoint and, if you haven’t read them, put them all on your Christmas wish list.

Morganville Vampires – Last Breath – Rachel Caine

I bought the Morganville Vampire series a while ago and quickly devoured them. The newest ones are a little jarring though, as the POV switches between characters – which I tend not to like – but the characters themselves are fully fleshed out and the vampire lore in these books is fantastic (I could have written ‘fangtastic’ but I didn’t) My favourite character is Myrnin – a flamboyant fluffy bunny slipper wearing mad scientist vampire, who you never know whether to trust.

The Goddess Test – Aimee Carter

We’ve been saturated with vampires, werewolves and zombies so a book about the Greek Gods is a refreshing twist. Great themes in this one and lots of parallels with mythology. It’s a lovely written YA book that captures you from the very beginning. The ending was quite obvious, but sometimes that’s a nice comfy feeling.

What have been your favourite reads this year?