Apr 29, 2016

Review: Undead by Kirsty McKay

Author: Kirsty McKay
Publisher: Chicken House
Publishing Date: September 1, 2012
Pages/Format: 263, Hardcover
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Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

Combining the chill of The Shining, the thrill ride of Speed, the humor of Shaun of the Dead, and the angst of The Breakfast Club, Kirsty McKay's Undead is a bloody mad mash-up, a school-trip splatter-fest, a funny, gory, frighteningly good debut!

Book in One Word: YEEEEEEESSSSS.

Undead is a book I read as part of a reading challenge for one of my book clubs. I wasn't expecting much from it. Like, at all. I picked it up in the hopes that it'd be a meaningless, shits-for-giggles novel that you read just because, like when you eat food you're not the fondest of just because it's food. I mean, come on: this is a zombie novel and the cover has a cheerleader on it with a bloody ax. So I wasn't expecting much except for a fun, quick read that's just a read. But here's the deal: I liked it. Like, a lot.

This book was totally better than I thought it'd be. I'm not saying I expected it to be bad--if I'd have thought that then I wouldn't have actually wanted to read it. But there's something about Undead that just hits the damn spot. It's a zombie novel in the vein that Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland are zombie movies: it leans more toward the comedic, mocking side, more laughs than screams. There's still seriousness and substance though, and something about it just works. I think I loved this book. And I'll be completely honest when I say that I wasn't expecting to be such a big fan of Undead, but I am.

Undead begins after a high school ski trip, when the bus stops at some random cafe for lunch. Bobby decides to stay on the bus to eat because she's the new girl from America (this is set in England), she has no friends, and she's the queen bee's favorite person to sting. With her on the bus are the bus driver and Smitty, the resident bad boy who's not allowed off the bus because he's the resident bad boy. (More on him later.) Fast forward a bit and something's gone wrong--the people are wrong--and Bobby, Smitty, queen bitch Alice, and ultimate nerd Peter are fighting for their lives and in the snow.

I kind of adore these characters, okay? This is Bobby's story and it's all in her point of view, but Kirsty McKay does such a good job of fleshing out her secondary characters and in a way that works for this kind of novel. I liked being in Bobby's head and seeing how she'd describe the unfortunate things happening around her. She's a total teenager bitter about being the picked on new kid and she's suffering from the loss of someone, but she could be snarky and grounded, mean and kind, all at the same time and when necessary. She had no idea what the hell was she doing, but she would still try to be fierce and not sit there crying like a baby and peeing her pants (like I would). Where Bobby's the best, most headstrong leader (everyone else's heads may be a little off kilter), Peter's the necessary brains of the group. He might pick using his brain over worrying about his own being eaten, but he's smart and techy and a large part of what the little ragtag group needs to survive. Alice is so perfectly the high class, oh-dear-gosh-I-broke-a-nail, forget-the-zombies-look-at-my-hair, queen bee, mean girl bitch. Sometimes that gets so overdone and is so obnoxious I can't stand it, but Alice and her character work so perfectly in Undead. I mean, occasionally you just wish someone would bash her over the head and shut her up, but she's rather tolerable. And there's Smitty. SMITTY SMITTY SMITTY. He is the comic relief, occasional voice of reason, possibly the most logical of the bunch--thought not the most serious--and just the best. He and Bobby definitely take the reins the most (how fitting). I love Smitty. He's got that whole punk rock, rebellious, I-hate-the-world vibe, and it is so wonderfully Smitty. If Smitty's not on a page then what's the point of reading it? (Also, I totally pictured him as Dalton Rapattoni from American Idol.)

Now, the zombies. They're kind of your average dumb, braaaaaain-addicted zombies, except where the hell did they come from? Don't worry--we actually get an explanation of sorts! (I feel like so many zombie stories avoid that but we want to know, damn it.) But with zombies also comes the whole people vs. people, trust no one concept, so that takes a bit of a play here, too. It has zombies, but it's not overly zombie-fied. It's a story about teenagers trying to survive not just zombies but being stuck with each other, and it is such a thrill to read. Undead has, like, everything, and it's the kind of book that could overdo it and get away with it, but McKay keeps most things at just the right level.

Undead is definitely a book you want to read, whether you like zombies or not. My gosh, it's just so fun and I adore it. Like, okay, zombie book, let me snuggle with you. It's very much on the lighter side and can be rather comedic and utterly ridiculous, but it still has that fine mix of panic and thrills and oh my gosh DID THAT JUST HAPPEN? Seriously. Perfect blend of everything. There are even feels and romance and I SHIP IT, so brain-filled brownie points to you, book. It's light and fun and, yes, kind of meaningless, I guess (I mean, it's not going to win any awards or anything; it's not that kind of book at all), but WHO CARES. Let me tell you: I read Undead and its sequel Unfed over the course of a couple days (I freaking devoured Undead in like a day), and books haven't been doing that to me lately and it was so nice to be all over a book again and just want to smile because of it and just writing the review for it is getting all me excited and filled with glee and it's been over a month since I've read it. Thank gosh I had Unfed on-hand or else I would've been in pure agony because SEQUEL, NEED. (Especially after that ending WHAT WAS THAT.) Now, give me all the Kirsty McKay books, please.  

Did I like it? YESSS.
Did I love it? WHY NOT?
Would I reread it? YESSS.
Would I purchase it? I'm actually really bummed this isn't on my shelf right now.
Who would I recommend it to? Do you like zombies? Then huzzah! Do you not like zombies? Then still huzzah! It's not very scary, I promise, but it is such a fun read and has a great cast of characters and if you like books like that then HERE.

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