Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
REVIEW BY NICKY
At first, I wasn't sure I was going to pick this one up. Janine and many of our high school students read this a while ago, and they have all been raving about it. When we decided that we were going to go meet Mr. Maberry at YA Fest in Easton, PA, I finally started Rot & Ruin. The reason I had been so hesitant to read this one is that I have these awful apocalyptic dreams sometimes, and I try to avoid books and movies that deal with this. The fact that this was about zombies didn't exactly help, either. Who knew I'd actually end up feeling sorry for the zombies in this book?!
Benny Imura has grown up after First Night, the night when a zombie epidemic broke out. He has been raised by his brother Tom, who fled with 18-month old Benny on that fateful night, when their parents became infected. Benny thinks he is a coward for abandoning their mother and running, but little does he realize Tom's strength and bravery. Benny has a coming-of-age experience when he leaves their small gated town to go out into the great Ruin with Tom. He has decided to apprentice with Tom as a zombie hunter, but did not realize what all that job entails and what all is out there in the Ruin. When some of the town's zombie hunters commit horrific crimes to protect Gameland, a place where children are sacrificed to fight "zoms" for entertainment, Tom and Benny go on a new kind of hunt, where Benny will learn more about Tom, the Ruin, and the truth about what goes on outside of their protected home.
When I first started reading Rot & Ruin, I was continually interrupted by life (work, kids, all those responsibilities), but as the story went on, I started making it a priority, staying up way to late to squeeze in "one more chapter." Finally, I carved out 3 full hours of non-stop reading to finish it! And boy, was I NOT disappointed. To take something so bizarre as a zombie apocalypse, and turn it into a complex story, with twists, and surprises, and multi-dimensional characters... that is a testament to Mr. Maberry's skill. He leaves you wanting more... to know more about the characters and their choices, more about the mystery of the Ruin and the world beyond Mountainside. As a high school librarian, this is one of those books that I can recommend to both boys and girls. It's beyond any kind of gender stereotype, and I love that!