Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Generation Dead

Daniel Waters, Simon & Schuster, 2008

All over the US, teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. And, as you might expect, people are divided on how to react. Some embrace this ‘second chance’ to be with their undead children. Others denounce these revenants as demonic portents of the apocalypse. Whatever the case, the undead are now a part of everyday life; they’re in our towns, our shops, our schools. And at Oakvale High, Goth-girl Phoebe’s obsession with Tommy, the new dead kid in class, will have consequences that nobody could ever have foreseen.

Generation Dead is a terrific little YA novel that credits its target audience with a fair bit of depth and intelligence. What begins as a deceptively light-hearted foray into the familiar territory of American high school culture – jocks and cheerleaders, freaks and geeks – quickly begins to delve into some very dark areas indeed, with themes of racial (or, in this case, biotic) and religious intolerance, grief, guilt, and various other unpleasant aspects of human nature coming to the fore. Nothing about this book is straightforward: the characters are complex and varied, with motivations that they themselves rarely understand, but with which readers will empathise, if not always sympathise; the plot twists and turns, defeating expectation at every turn. Even the ending – which I thought I could see coming a mile off – is brutally unexpected and downbeat, and guaranteed to leave the reader wanting to know: ‘but what happened next?’

Utterly absorbing and gripping from beginning to end, Generation Dead should appeal to most readers of darker fiction. I’ll look forward to reading the sequel.

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