This is the first book in Generation Dead series by Daniel Waters. Right now, I believe that 5 books are planned. The 2nd book “Kiss of Life” came out May 2009 and the third book “Passing Strange” is planned to release in May of 2010. I really liked this book; I’d give it 4.5 stars. The book itself deals with deeper issues than the somewhat hokey cover would lead you to believe.
Suddenly American teenagers who have died are coming back to life. There is only a small percentage of them that return to life and no one knows why. Phoebe’s high school is considered to be one of the better schools for the “living impaired” or, more politically correct, “differently biotic,” teenagers. When Phoebe meets Tommy, she is fascinated by the fact that he is dead but still very intelligent and very focused. When Tommy tries out for, and makes, the football team he meets Adam, one of Phoebe’s best friends. Tommy joining the football team upsets a lot of people who believe that the “Dead” kids should stay dead and buried. Then a research foundation asks for kids to join a study work group focused at helping relations between the traditionally biotic (trads) and the differently biotic (zombies). Suddenly Adam, Tommy, Phoebe, and a few others who join the study group find them selves targets for violence and are ostracized.
When I started this book I was concerned that this would be just another young adult high school drama but with zombies. It is a lot more than that. Waters creates characters that are very personable, engaging, and believable. Phoebe is a wonderful sweet and smart girl; who communicates very effectively with her parents and her friends. Adam and Tommy are also great characters. In fact every single character in this book is very well developed and interesting to get to know. This isn’t a story about some crazy zombies, it’s a story that talks about how society deals with things that are different.
I was also impressed with how Waters treats the living impaired teenagers. This book is approaching un-death as a disability or a new race. As such many social and political aspects of society are realistically dealt with in surprising depth. Many questions about how having a new race of un-dead teens affects family life, school life, social life, and the world as a whole are dealt with.
So, overall I thought this was a surprisingly well-done book. Of course, you do have the standard things a lot of teen books have. You have a love triangle between Tommy, Phoebe, and Adam to create some tension between the characters. You have a prom dance, and you have the standard jock jerks that try to make everyone’s lives miserable. These things were dealt with tastefully though.
The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the middle of it. I thought that the story started to drag a bit in the middle. The whole portion where they are forming the support group could have gone a bit faster. Also it would have been nice to have more urgency to the plot and maybe something urgent happening. You have the whole impending sense of doom that something bad is going to happen to the undead kids, but other than that there isn’t a ton to the plot. That being said, the beginning and ending of the book kept me pretty hooked; given the ending I wish I had “Kiss of Life” in hand so I could start reading it now. I will definitely be keeping up with this series.