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.

2 comments:

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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