Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead” by Max Brooks December 10, 2011

Filed under: Non-Fiction,Young Adult,Zombies/Undead — hilariouslibrarian @ 1:11 am
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Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003. 247 pages. ISBN: 9781400049622

Zombie Survival Guide cover

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This guide covers all aspects of preparation for zombie attack. A thorough discussion of the zombie virus and its physical effects sets the stage for choosing weapons, selecting and outfitting a survival team, and poring over insights gleaned from earlier attacks.


Advertised as a guide to complete protection, this book lives up to its name. It leaves no stone unturned, no eventuality ignored as Brooks pushes forward with his personal mission of preparing every man, woman, and child for zombie attack which will – sooner or later – come.

Brooks focuses on total preparation – pulling together supplies, arming the team, pre-selecting battle locations, and more. He asks the tough questions, such as these regarding hand weapons:

“1. Can it crush a skull in one blow?

2. If not, can it decapitate in said blow?”

Readers will be riveted – and grateful later – to learn about the finer qualities of the trench spike (“without a doubt the best compact anti-zombie weapon on earth”) and to have some help thinking through whether a bank or a cemetery is the best public place to take a stand against the zombies. (Surprise! It’s the cemetery.) This information will be invaluable when you hear the moans of the hungry undead coming from the other side of your front door.

Wait! There’s More:

To be completely prepared for zombie attack, you should also be sure to read Max Brooks’ other amazing works, “The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks” (graphic novel) and “World War Z” (fiction).

Teen View:

“[Brooks] does make some very convincing points, if the world does become overrun by zombies. I’m interested mostly in the survival aspect, but I do find zombies interesting, such as how can zombies differentiate between humans and other zombies. Why don’t they feast on the rest of the zombies? It’s kind of a mindless animal, except that it once was human. There’s just a lot to consider.” – Edward, 18

Random Thought:

I once had the pleasure and honor of hosting an author event with Max Brooks at our library. He is charming, funny, and incredibly generous to his fans. The event was amazingly popular, with people clamoring to get in long after all 285 seats were full. Still, Max took the time to talk with and write a clever, personalize note inside the book of every person who stood in line for the signing. He was “on” until the last person was ushered from the auditorium. I did think he might drop over into a coma, though, before I could drive the two whole blocks back to his hotel. He gave everything he had to make it a wonderful, memorable night.


  • None noted

“Zombies vs. Unicorns” compiled and edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black December 9, 2011

Larbalestier, Justine and Black, Holly (editors). Zombies vs. Unicorns. New York: Margaret K. Elderberry Books, 2010. 415 pages. ISBN: 9781416989530

Zombies vs Unicorns cover

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Twelve beloved, extraordinary authors face off in alternating stories highlighting the perceived glories of super-cool zombies vs. pathetically perky unicorns. The clash of the mythical creatures is mediated by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black, who duke it out before the stories, each hoping to persuade the reader of the eternal dominance of Team Zombie vs. Team Unicorn.


Really, half this book just isn’t even necessary. All right. All right. Authors like Garth Nix and Diana Peterfruend and Meg Cabot – I’m sure they’re good people. But the joined the wrong team, plain and simple.

The win clearly goes to Team Zombie, with six stories that really tease out the nuances of the (un)life of the zombie as well as life with zombies, demonstrating the wealth and depth of the contemporary zombie.

In “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Alaya Dawn Johnson shares the beauty of blossoming love between an enchanting living boy and a boy zombie. This love brings the zombie to a higher calling, the strength of their bond lending him a new level of restraint when it comes to flesh eating.

“Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan – set in a corner of the same world that shelters the stories of her Forest of Hands and Teeth series – shows how a zombie apocalypse survivor can really learn to rise to the occasion when set upon both by zombies and pirates.

“Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson takes a unique view at zombie life from the inside, while “Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld blends puberty, stirring sexuality, and teen angst with the continuous creeping pull of the zombie horde to devastating effect.

Cassandra Clare explores mixed living and undead marriage in her breakthrough “Cold Hands,” while a pair of high school student government officers-turned-anti-zombie police force patrol and try to keep up appearances in “Prom Night” by Libba Bray.

After all that, who needs Naomi Novik’s sarcastically incompetent unicorn from “Purity Test” or the creepy beastiality of Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers” or Meg Cabot’s flower-smell farting, creeper-boy butt-kicking “Princess Prettypants?” They’re just unicorns, after all.

Zombies rule. Unicorns drool.

Awards/Honors (source:

  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • Texas Tayshas High School Reading List

“Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick December 8, 2011

Bick, Ilsa J. Ashes.New York: Egmont, 2011. 465 pages. ISBN: 9781606841754

Ashes cover

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In an instant, the world changes, struck by an electromagnetic pulse that tears through the air, leaving some dead, some seemingly unaffected, and many turned to flesh-craving, wicked fast zombies. Alex, on a lonely hike when “The Zap” hits, must choose carefully who to trust among the survivors as she learns all the ways in which this massive upheaval will bring out the best and very, very worst in those left behind.


Alex has already been through quite a lot in her short life. Her parents are dead – killed together in a horrible helicopter accident. Now, her own body has turned on her. An inoperable tumor is weaving itself into her brain, taking her memories, her sense of smell, and slowly, her life.

Denying that she has a specific plan, she has taken her parents ashes and a gun into the wilderness to say goodbye. She has just met up with Grandfather Jack and his surly 8-year-old granddaughter when all three, along with passing deer and the flock of crows overhead, are taken over by a strange, head-splitting sensation.

When it’s over, Jack is dead. The ground is littered with dead crows. The surly granddaughter is hysterical. And Alex is … better than she’s been in ages. She can remember her parents. She feels stronger. She can smell – almost too well.

Nothing makes sense since “The Zap,” least of all the others of her own age, who are now wandering the woods stinking of death, and driven by a maniacal hunger for human flesh. It soon becomes clear that nothing will ever be the same, almost no one can be trusted, and the struggle to survive will take everything Alex has got left.

Wait! There’s More:

Ashes is just book 1 of the Ashes trilogy. Shadows (Book 2) and Monsters (Book 3) are forthcoming.

Teen View (thoughts about zombies):

Planning how to survive in case of a zombie apocalypse is how Travis, 16, normally spends 7th period.

“I’m going to go to the mall and get some weapons because they have weapons at most malls. I’d want anything, really, swords, guns, crossbows. I prefer far-range weapons. Then, I’ll start running around to find a car and put some spikes on it and the take the car and start driving toward the most unpopulated area I can find. I’d take some food, but if I needed more food, I could always drive back and find a store.” Travis doesn’t seriously think the zombies will come. “We’re too well defended. I just like making fun of zombies,” he says. “It’s just interesting to consider how to survive.”


None yet! This is a September 2011 release.


“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan December 7, 2011

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. 310 pages. ISBN: 9780385736817

The Forest of Hands and Teeth cover

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Mary lives in a village totally controlled by the Sisterhood, a religious order, and trapped by the thousands of hungry undead who live in the forest surrounding the community. Yet, she longs for the ocean she learned of in stories from her mother during her childhood and can’t give up the notion that there may be something out there for her beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.


Even as her world is coming apart, Mary cannot resist the pull of the forbidden.

Her father is already gone, bitten and pulled away into the vast sea of the moaning, hungry, living dead Unconsecrated who surround her village. Her mother, distraught with grief and love, soon follows, leaving Mary with the stories she has told about a mythical ocean and world beyond the village.

Mary’s brother, in anger, abandons her, leaving her with no choice but to join the Sisterhood that controls all life in the village. There, Mary finds herself assigned to help with the care of a childhood friend who has been badly injured. Even as she knows he is promised to another, she falls deeply and desperately in love. Then she too is chosen for marriage – by her beloved’s brother and finds herself cornered by tradition and expectations and other people’s desires.

Just as she is feeling most trapped, the Unconsecrated break through the fences protecting the village and she escapes with her betrothed, her beloved, her best friend, and her brother as everything they have ever known disintegrates behind them.

Driven by her dreams and hopes about the ocean, Mary drives herself and her companions through an ancient protected path to face what is to come from The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Wait! There’s More:

This is only the first book in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Also look for The Dead-Tossed Waves (2010) and The Dark and Hollow Places (2011).

Teen View (courtesy of YouTube):

Awards/Honors (source:

  • A New York Times Best Seller
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • An ALA Best Books for Young Adults selection
  • Named to the 2010 New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age List
  • A Borders Original Voices finalist
  • #4 on the IndieBound Kids’ Indie Next List for Spring 2009
  • A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
  • Selected for the 2010-2011 Texas Library Association TAYSHAS High School Reading list
  • A Denver Public Library Best Teen Books of 2009 selection
  • Nominated for the North Carolina School Library Media Association Young Adult Book Award
  • Nominated for the 2010-2011 Georgia Peach Book Award


“My So-Called Death” by Stacey Jay December 6, 2011

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Mystery,Young Adult,Zombies/Undead — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:33 am
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Jay, Stacey. My So-Called Death. Woodbury, Minn.: Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications, 2010. 229 pages. ISBN: 9780738715438

My So-Called Death cover

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A hard fall off the top of a cheer pyramid knocks Karen Vera into another world. Turns out, she’s genetically indisposed toward death. So, instead of planning a funeral, her parents ship her off to DEAD High where a fellow zombie with a taste for other zombie brains is about to make everything very interesting indeed.


I thought I was on top of the world. After all, I was a 14-year-old cute, blonde cheerleader who out-perkied even the perkiest of other cheerleaders. But it turns out, I was only on top of the cheer pyramid and that pyramid was about to collapse. So, you would think once I fell headfirst from the top of the heap onto the pavement below and most of my brains fell pretty much clean out of my head that that would be the end of my story, right?

Well, you’d be wrong. Apparently, I’m immortal. Not the cool kind of super-power immortal, but the kind that craves brains and has to follow a skin-care regimen to avoid rot. (Ew, gross.) They like to call it death challenged, but basically, I’m a zombie now so I have to ditch my family and go to a special zombie school and if my totally freaky zombie roommate wasn’t bad enough – yikes! Now someone is prying the brains out of other zombie’s heads to make some kind of super-stew. And I’m totally afraid it might be Gavin, the super-cute zombie from the swim team who makes my non-beating heart go pitter-pat.

I have just got to get to the bottom of this. I don’t want someone stealing my brain before I even kiss my first zombie boyfriend and really start to enjoy “My So-Called Death.”


None noted


“501 Things to do with a Zombie” by J.C. Richards, illustrated by Aaron Waite December 4, 2011

Filed under: Non-Fiction,Young Adult,Zombies/Undead — hilariouslibrarian @ 5:38 pm
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Richards, JC (author). Waite, Aaron (illustrator). 501 Things to do with a Zombie. Avon, Mass.: Adams Media, 2010. 222 pages. ISBN: 1440505640


Zombies like to eat brains, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fun to have around. These 501 examples of zombie-driven fun range from everyday to extraordinary.


501 Things to do with a Zombie cover

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With so many people focusing on the downside of the zombie apocalypse, it’s time to look past the murder, mayhem, and rotting smell to find the lighter side of these (not-so) loveable lugs. After all, today’s zombie might have been yesterday’s neighbor. Is there any reason to cut ties just because Neighbor Bob is sporting a little rotting flesh and has lost a limb or two?

In “501 Things to do with a Zombie,” you’ll see the answer is definitely no! Take a zombie outside to make a snowman, take a cooking class together, hit the town for a little karaoke, or just stay home and listen to NPR. With so many great ideas to choose from, you’re sure to find many that appeal to both you and your zombie buddy. You may even be inspired to come up with a few more ideas and make it 515 things to do with a zombie.




“Rot & Ruin” by Jonathan Maberry November 30, 2011

Maberry, Jonathan. Rot & Ruin. New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2010. 458 pages. ISBN: 9781442402324

Rot & Ruin cover

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Unsuited for any other kind of work, Benny Imura reluctantly agrees to become apprenticed to his zombie hunter brother. For the first time in his life, Benny leaves the safety of his gated community and heads out into Rot & Ruin, coming face-to-face with the realities of this zombie-ridden, shattered shell of what was America.


Welcome to Mountainside, an exclusive gated community guarded 24/7 for the benefit of the elite population permitted inside. Benny Imura, almost 15, is one of these elite – one of the last humans surviving after a zombie virus swept across the United States, leaving a teeming mass of hungry undead behind.

Now that he’s turning 15, Benny will be expected to take a job and contribute in his small community, working for rations. But where? He’s a disaster as a fence tester, pit thrower, carpet coat salesman, and erosion artist. Finally, he is left with nowhere to turn except the brother he hates. Tom Imura is supposed to be some hotshot zombie hunter – he’s even on one of the Zombie Cards that the kids in the village collect and trade. But Benny knows better. Benny knows his brother is the same coward who ran when their father turned, leaving their mother to a terrible fate.

But because he has no choice, Benny attaches himself to Tom, following him for the first time into the Rot & Ruin beyond the village gates. What he finds there – what he learns about himself, his brother, his zombie hunting idols, and the zombies themselves – will turn his world upside down and test him seemingly beyond his own very human limits.

Wait! There’s more:

The next book in this series, Dust & Decay, was released in summer 2011. Flesh & Bone due out September 2012!

Awards/Honors (source:

  • 2010 Cybils Awards (Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • 2010 Bram Stoker Award nominee (Superior Achievement in a Novel)