World War Z: an oral history of the zombie war by Max Brooks

I have to admit, I don't really like reading stories about zombies. I like monsters, scary villains and I don't mind a bit of gore... but there's something about decaying, flesh eating corpses that turn me off. But when a teen guy at our library kept raving about World War Z, I thought I'd just take a peek.

World War Z is a collection interviews and first person accounts of a world wide human war against zombies. It's put together like a historical account, with a serious tone to make it as realistic as possible. Since it's a series of oral accounts from various people, the book doesn't read like your typical chronological novel where the plot is held together by a single narrator. This makes it a bit more choppy and I could see some readers getting bored with it at some point. I found myself randomly flipping to different sections of the book -- it's definitely not a thriller that had me biting my nails all the way through. If a reader is looking for a high octane zombie read, I'd suggest the Enemy series by Charlie Higson or Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry rather than World War Z. That said, I was actually impressed by the way the story is presented -- I thought I'd be laughing or dismissing the whole thing as melodramatic, but instead I found most of the chapters quite interesting. It had plenty of gory moments - but I didn't find this gratuitous or so repulsive I couldn't read on.  I liked the choice of perspectives included in the book: the organ harvester whose operations spread the zombie infection, the child whose parents tried to kill her to prevent the zombies from eating her, the Palestinian who believed it was all an Israeli conspiracy. Interestingly, it made me consider deeper themes like corruption, greed, politics and the different ways humans respond to threat and catastrophe. Yes -- all this from a fictional account the world being taken over by zombies! I wouldn't expect the typical teen reader to react the same way I did; I'd expect them to just think the whole zombie war idea is pretty cool (which it is).  The great thing is, these are real zombies: gross, terrifying lumps of rotting flesh that will eat your arm off -- not zombies that are portrayed as marginalized population that need to be included in your groupie at high school.

 This is definitely one I'll be recommending to teen guy readers, along with Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead and Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. There are also plans to make World War Z into a movie in December 2012, so it's probably be a good idea to make sure you've got at least a couple copies of all three in your teen collection, as I'm sure the demand for them will only be increasing.

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