Rot & Ruin has zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. It also has all of the good stuff that usually accompanies zombies, such as thrills, chills, and of course, kills. However, Rot & Ruin is not a zombie book, not in the traditional sense. It's a coming of age story in a time where everything is dangerous, and nothing is quite how it seems, and about the birth of a hero.
The book begins about 15 years after First Night, when the dead started coming back to life, and focuses on Benny Imura, 14, and his older, zombie hunter brother Tom. Benny is about to turn 15, and that means he'll have to get a job, or his food rations will be cut in half. I'll be honest, at the start of this book, I thought Benny Imura, our 15 year old star, was a whining, moody little brat and was actually worried that I wasn't going to like him at all. On the other hand, his older brother Tom was a quiet, kind, strong presence that eventually grew into a much bigger role later in the novel. Benny tries his hand at a number of jobs before deciding, kicking and screaming, to go into the "family business", aka zombie hunting, or as Tom prefers, becoming a "closure specialist". Benny has fuzzy, vague memories about Tom running away with him and leaving his parents to the mercy of the zombies on First Night, and has nursed bitter resentment for him ever since. Benny idolizes the obnoxious, loud mouthed bounty hunter Charlie, and thinks his brother is a coward, not only for what he perceives happened on First Night, but because Tom rarely talks about what he does to put food on the table.
It's only when Tom takes Benny out into the Rot & Ruin (the zombie infested area beyond their fenced in town), that Benny begins to realize just what his brother does on a daily basis. His entire world view is turned upside down, and when his friend Nix is kidnapped by zombie hunters with the most evil of plans, Benny has to look inside himself to find courage he never knew existed.
This book was initially hard for me to review, because I recently read Patient Zero, and The Dragon Factory, both by Jonathan Maberry, and I had become engrossed in Joe Ledger's world. So, perhaps unfairly to this book, I expected more of the same, just toned down for a Young Adult audience. Rot & Ruin took a bit longer for me to get into, only because I had to flip that switch taking me out of Joe Ledger's adventures, and put myself into Benny's.The payoff was definitely worth it! There's plenty of guts and action to please boy readers (and reluctant readers), and the characters show significantly more insight and maturity than many of the YA titles available right now. There was also plenty to please this girl reader, and there were some heartbreaking moments that really made me love the characters. I'll be keeping my eye out for Dust & Decay, the next Benny Imura adventure!show more
by My Bookish Ways