Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter ( web | tweet )
Book 1 in the White Rabbit Chronicles series.
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Zombies, high school, romance, friends
Format read: A book from my bookshelf! (I got the copy at BEA.)
Summary: One night of acting normal changes Alice’s whole life when her parents and sister die at the hands of zombies. At a new school, living in a new house, Ali is suddenly obsessed with these nocturnal creatures and wants to take them down.
I know, I know. This doesn’t seem like a typical Estelle book. I am partial to contemporary fiction, yes. But I do love to try new things, and I couldn’t help but dust off my copy of Alice in Zombieland when I heard such high praise from Betty over at Book Rock Betty. (Can you believe I picked it up because it had a pretty cover?)
And I am so very glad that I did.
We first meet Alice caught in a Molly Ringwald-like situation. Her parents have totally forgotten her 16th birthday, and to make it up to her, she wants her little sister, Emma, to be able to dance in her recital that evening. (Their relationship is adorable.) Sounds simple, right? Well. Not so much. Alice and Emma lead a very sheltered childhood due to their father’s fears about “monsters” lurking at nightfall. Because of this the girls haven’t been able to maintain much of a social life. Alice is frustrated because she thinks her dad is nuts (and he drinks too much) and because her mom will do very little to stand her own ground on this situation.
So it’s pretty exciting when Alice gets her parents to give in for once, and Emma has her chance to shine on stage. Unfortunately, the night ends in heartbreak and a horrible discovery: her dad was right. The monsters are real and Alice’s family are their latest victims. Stuck in a new school and living with her grandparents, Alice is starting all over as Ali, secretly spying on these creatures at all hours and having visions when she locks eyes with the gorgeous yet dangerous Cole Holland at school.
From Ali’s sarcasm to the uber-confidence of her new friend, Kat, to the grandparents desperately trying to be cool, Showalter injects a ton of personality in to Alice of Zombieland. I really liked that because it set up a nice balance with the whole fighting evil thing that was going on. I was reminded a little bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was reading it, with Ali going through normal high school stuff by day and looking out for zombies at night. (The two start to intertwine as time goes on.)
And then there is Cole Holland, who has violet eyes, tattoos, and a nipple ring. No joke. This guy is hot, but everyone keeps telling Ali to stay away. But she can’t help it because whenever they lock eyes, both of them are stuck in this bubble neither of them can figure out. Despite the tough exterior, I really liked Cole a lot. Yes, he was a total leader and liked to tell people what to do. But I think he had every reason to want to maintain control. Those scary things that lurk in the night had already turned his life upside down; he needed to have a grasp on something.
And oh gosh, the whole slow-burn romance between Cole and Ali equates to some super blazing moments.
I’m not much of an expert on zombies at all but I really liked Showalter’s even spookier take on them. They were more like ghosts or spirits, and even the way of attacking them was different. (Remember the thestrals from Harry Potter? Those weird creatures could only be seen by people who had been a witness to death. For some, Showalter’s zombies are like that too. Ali could only see them once she experienced a traumatic event.) The fighting, Ali coming to terms with her father being right, and the question of who to trust made this book a page turner.
I only have one gripe, really. Except for a few minor references (and chapter titles), the book didn’t relate all that much to Alice in Wonderland. All those references felt more coincidental than part of a bigger re-telling. Honestly, I’d forget all about it until I got to a new chapter.
That absence didn’t affect my enjoyment though. Zombieland was creepy, it was funny, and the lively dialogue and commentary definitely made me a fan. Bring on Book 2!