Sunday, 18 September 2011

Review: Undead - Kirsty McKay

Title: Undead
Author: Kirsty McKay
Format: Uncorrected Proof
Pages: 294
Genre: Young Adult, Zombies
Published: 1st September 2011 (Chicken House)

Being new at school bites. But at least it doesn't kill you. Mostly.

Bobby thinks she might well be on the School Trip from Hell. Too bad she's a noob, too bad her classmates don't rate her weirdo accent and too bad that Scotland is having the worst blizzard since the Ice Age. Looks like she's going to be on this school bus for a quite a while; could things get much worse?

Yep. They could.

Inexplicably, her classmates start dying...and then they come back to life again...and what's more, they're very, very hungry.

With nowhere to run and no contact with the outside world, Bobby is thrown together with a raggle-taggle group of survivors at a roadside café. There's indie kid drop-out Smitty, the class beauty queen Alice, dweeby Pete and two near useless adults: a half-conscious bus driver and a volatile petrol station attendant.

The frenemies struggle to stay alive - through explosions, deadly battles and a breakneck chase through the snowbound wilderness. Somehow they have to make it to safety - and get some answers - no matter what the cost.

Can they survive the Undead? And each other?

British-born Bobby has returned to the UK after years of living in America. Thrown into a school skiing trip before she's even started her new school, she's finding it tough to make friends with her new classmates. When the bus stops for a comfort break, she hides out onboard instead of going into the cafe with the rest and doing so saves her from becoming one of the undead. The only other survivors are Smitty, the school rebel; popular girl, Alice and geeky Pete. Together they must work together to try and stay alive.

The start of this book was pretty much as expected for a zombie-survival type story: a reasonably simple set up for four of the teens to miss out on becoming zombified. It's after this that all the fun and action happens. One thing that slightly bugged me at the start was that neither the blurb or the book told me whether Bobby was a girl or boy. The book is written in first person as well so obviously no 'he' or 'she' to help either. Now, bare in mind I was reading an uncorrected proof so this may not be the case in the final version, but it made it really hard to visualise the scenes. To start with I thought I'd just missed it, then I wondered if I wasn't supposed to know. Fortunately before I got too annoyed with it, it became clearer that it was a girl!Bobby.

With that issue settled, I started to like the characters more and more. Of course Alice was a little annoying because she was all "I'm not going outside, I'm staying here where it's safe and warm" and Pete was the same but as this was fitting to their characters it was fine. I didn't like them as people but they were good characters. Smitty was everything I like in a male, potential love interest and bad boy character. He was a little bit risky and crazy but his guts and bravery got them through a lot of the tough stuff. The growing relationship between him and Bobby was cute, totally believable and there banter gave some light relief to a dark situation.

There's plenty of action throughout this book, some great end of chapter cliff-hangers and some unexpected twists, all keeping you turning the pages long after you sould have gone to bed. Also - zombie stories really aren't the best cure for insomnia.


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