This review and others are posted at Read, Rinse, Repeat.
I've read through the current reviews on Goodreads, and one common thread is that everyone loved the relationship between brothers Michael, seventeen, and Patrick, five. I'll be the lone wolf who says I did not like it. At all. This child seemed straight out of 80's sitcom land: way too cutesy and overly precocious in a way that made me (and I can't believe I'm writing this about a young child) dislike him. I suppose I can understand why readers who responded positively to the relationship rated the story highly. For better or worse, this relationship drives nearly the entire plot. I do appreciate a boy who puts the needs of his little brother first and goes to extraordinary (and often unbelievable) lengths to protect him. I'm going to pause now to allow you to get out your pitchforks...
Are you ready? Pitchforks in hand? OK...I wanted the zombies to eat Patrick.
There, I said it. In part, just to get this annoying person out of the book. But also, I think the plot would have received a much-needed jolt of energy by dispatching this child who required constant care and attention, admittedly just as would any 5 year old in a setting populated with ravenous zombies.
Look at the last two words of the synopsis: "unexpected romance." Well, no, it was not unexpected to me. Unnecessary? Definitely. Thrown in at the request of the agent or publisher? Maybe. It seems as much an afterthought in the book as it did in the synopsis. Out of the tiny, and I mean TINY, group of seemingly-normal survivors the boys found, one just happened to be the correct age and gender to appeal to a heterosexual teenage boy. Her character could have been a different age or gender, and if you take away the flirty moments, you've got the same book.
If you've visited my site before, you might know that my obsession with zombies often leads me to give some leeway to flaws that might bother other readers. As fantastic as the synopsis sounded, and THAT AWESOME COVER, I just couldn't do it here. In addition to the character problems I mentioned, I was also turned off by the overly juvenile tone of the writing.
Yes, it's YA, but the tone of the book and Michael's own voice seemed a bit dumbed-down. It almost seemed more MG than YA. The secondary characters, particularly the villains, were little more than caricatures, and there is absolutely no surprise in who gets their zombie comeuppance. Worst of all, these zombies/bellows were not all that scary, and I never had the sense that the characters who were obviously going to make it to the end were ever in danger. And that, my friends, is a major zombie fail.
Note - I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review.