Book Review: Generation Dead

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
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Review by Meg

What would you do if your best friend died, and then knocked on your door a week later looking for a place to stay? This is the problem facing America in Daniel Waters' novel Generation Dead. It is set in an upper-middle-class high school with one of the best programs for the "differently biotic" in the country. A few normal students, like Goth-girl Phoebe and football star Adam, develop close relationships with the living dead, but the majority fear them. Some, namely the mentally unstable Pete, want the dead to stay dead--and aren't afraid to use violence to make it happen. When Phoebe finds herself falling for the leader of the living impaired, it sets off a chain of events that will change the lives (or afterlives) of everyone involved.

I loved this book for its extraordinary characters, fast-paced action, and deeper message. I will the be the first to admit that, upon discovering the "zombies in high school" premise, I was expecting comedy, and likely bad comedy at that. Instead, despite occasional flashes of humor, the book quickly takes a turn toward the dark side as the plot unfolds. Obvious comparisons can be drawn to racism and the Civil Rights Movement, but the novel never gets preachy. Of course, the book isn't perfect. There are several threads that never really get followed to their conclusions and detracted somewhat from the main plot (Did the augmentation work? What was the deal with the white vans?), but on the whole Generation Dead is one of the best books I have read in a while.

Review by Caitlin C.

The word “zombie” is a very powerful one. One cannot mention it in casual conversation without invoking images of reanimated, rotting corpses shambling through town, feasting on the brains of the living. This is why Oakvale High asks its students to use the terms “living impaired” and “differently biotic” when referring to their less-than-living classmates.

Some readers may be feeling pretty confused now, but that’s nothing compared to the inexplicable mystery of how teenagers cheat death in Daniel Walter’s first young adult novel Generation Dead. As expected, the living impaired aren’t welcomed with open arms into the High School, and vigilantes have already killed some of these teenagers a second time. There are some particularly active undead students, such as Karen, Evan and Tommy, who don’t let their biological differences hold them back, but most of the others walk and act in a similar fashion to their B-movie counterparts, minus the appetite for grey matter. When Alish and Angela Hunter set up a program at Oakvale High to increase awareness and acceptance of the differently biotic, only a few students attend the program, including the two protagonists, Phoebe Kendall and Adam Layman.

Phoebe is a student with an all black wardrobe and an iPod filled with songs by such artists as the Creeps and the Misfits. Adam is a football player who began studying karate after severely injuring a running-back from an opposing team with an illegal move. At first glance, one would hardly believe the two were childhood chums, or that Adam is hoping to take the friendship further. However, everything changes when Tommy Williams, a zombie classmate, tries out for the football team. The three meet up after school once a week along with other classmates interested in the cause; Karen, a skirt-loving girly-girl who’s unusually perky for a zombie, Thorny, the na├»ve freshman, Evan, the redheaded jokester whose only regret is that death won’t let him whistle, and Margi, who still suffers guilt for shunning her reanimated friend, Colette, in her time of need. Whether the students laugh at the misspelled hate-mail sent to the Hunter Foundation, sport the latest t-shirts advocating “Zombie Power”, or dance at the nightclub/halfway home aptly named “the Haunted House”, it seems like nothing can break up this group. Still, there are plenty of people gumming up the civil rights movement for zombies such as those in the suspicious white vans that appear during the murders of the living impaired, and Pete Martinsburg, whose hatred for the differently biotic stems from a frustrated home life and grief over his dead girlfriend, Julie, who didn’t come back.

It’s very easy to become interested in Generation Dead, and the reading is fluid and enjoyable. The teenage characters are three dimensional and well developed, and each one has something different to contribute to the story. One of my favorite characters was Karen, who disproved many of the stereotypes about the differently biotic, with her fluent speech and her ability to drink coffee. The adult characters seemed too much like cardboard figures or plot devices to be believable, and several of them, like Alish Hunter, Coach Konrathy and Skip Slydell, were never seen again once their purpose for the story was fulfilled. The teenagers are central to the story in young adult novels, but if adults are going to be introduced in a story, they should be just as deep and three-dimensional as the rest of the characters.


Anonymous said...

I thought Generation Dead was an amazing book. But if you really think about it I am only 12 soo. I took it to school today after reading it for a hour last night. I finished a hour ago. I am a very quick reader. I almost have to make a checkout list for all of my friends who want to read it now. One of my friends even wrote down the title and said she was going to by it tonight. I really liked the characters. I liked how Phoebe liked Tommy and how Adam would do anything for Phoebe. It was all just really good!!!

Anonymous said...

i was just wondering the age group this is apporpriate for. im not sure if i would want to read it, im 14....

Gretchen said...

the two people who reviewed it for the library were a junior and a senior in high school and really enjoyed it. it is a young adult book, not middle grade, so it has high school appeal.

Anonymous said...

Best book I have ever read!
I love it so much!
Tommy is the BEST!

Anonymous said...

I really liked how unique this book is. It's well thought out and very good when I read what it was about I was a little nervus about reading it but once I started I really liked it. It wasn't my fav book but it's still a really good book and has an amazing story line so :)!!