Friday, July 16, 2010

Generation Dead

The Facts
Author: Daniel Waters
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: 2008
Length: 400 pages

The Fiction
A strange thing is happening to dead teenagers across America – they are not staying dead. The phenomenon has scientists baffled and people are getting angry. Generation Dead centers around Oakvale High School - home to a rising number of ‘living impaired’ students who find themselves at odds with some of the ‘trad’ teenagers. Phoebe Kendall is the heroine of the story, a goth girl who is sympathetic towards the plight of the undead and finds herself intrigued (and later romantically involved) with Tommy Williams, a zombie. There’s also her neighbour, the gentle giant Adam who is (not-so) secretly harbouring some strong feelings for Phoebe. Not everyone is as tolerant as Phoebe, and there’s a growing animosity, especially towards those students who take a tolerance class with the mysterious Hunter Foundation.

So I do think this novel/series is one you either enjoy or don’t. People seem to have quite strong feelings about it one way or the other, and I will say I’m leaning towards the first camp (I enjoyed it a lot), though did have a few issues with it (which I go into below). I liked the fact that zombies (oh even typing that feels wrong in this case – the living impaired) are handled with respect and sensitivity, even if this goes over-the-top at times. I found it interesting the way in which Waters uses zombiism as a means to explore segregation, hate crimes and civil rights in a contemporary setting. I would liken the series, in this aspect, to a YA version of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series and in the same way; zombies have come ‘out of the grave’ and are now in the public eye and very much in the media.

At times, I found myself slightly frustrated with Generation Dead because I did feel that Phoebe could have been developed further. For a young woman who writes poetry and seems quite sensitive and introspective, I couldn’t quite understand why she was so confused and unable to understand her feelings for Tommy and Adam. I found myself actually preferring to hear the male point of view (from Adam and Pete) as they were more interesting - Adam is an easily likeable and relatable character – even if at times I wanted him to ‘man up’ and ask Phoebe out already. Though Pete is quite an unlikeable character, I liked getting into his head, as it allowed for a better-rounded novel. Kiss of Life also featured more Karen (my favourite and a far more intriguing female character – sorry Phoebe!), and as a result, I have high hopes for the third book, Passing Strange.

I do feel like Generation Dead is a bit to get through (there is a lot of set-up and back-story to fully comprehend the whole ‘differently biotic’ thing) and you don’t really get a sense of closure from the novel (the whole time I was reading, I just knew this story wasn’t going to be finished within the one book). As I mentioned above, I enjoyed the sequel, Kiss of Life more as most of the set-up is out of the way, allowing Waters to spend more time on the plotlines and characters I found to be the most interesting (Karen, Pete, Adam, Margi and the rising tensions between the living and the undead).

Overall, I really enjoyed Generation Dead and felt like it was an innovative take on  a paranormal romance plotline. Whilst Phoebe fell a bit flat for me (and I found Tommy to be kind of boring in this), the books are rounded out by a well-developed and engaging cast of supporting characters. Waters puts a creative spin on the zombie genre, and successfully addresses a range of important issues. I would recommend committing to the series if you do read Generation Dead, as the sequel reaches greater depth with character and thematic exploration in this very contemporary zombie drama.


Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Hmmm...I haven't decided whether or not to put this one on my TBR list yet. Thanks for the great, in-depth review though! :)

Girl Friday said...

Thanks Natalie - I can understand that it's the kind of genre that's not for everyone, but if you get through and enjoy the first few chapters, it's definitely worth reading :)

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