Honest and lively YA book reviews
Warm Bodies is a largely undisguised retelling of that old favourite, Romeo & Juliet (the main characters names are R and Julie, you can't get much more blatant than that! He even sees her on a balcony at one point for christsake!) so I knew from the off that I was treading a well worn path when it came to the plot. The main difference being that R is in fact a zombie, which I'm pretty sure is an element Shakespeare left out of the original play (I haven't read the thing since high school so don't quote me on that ...) It was a short and sweet read of what makes us human and the transformative power of love. Sounds a little barf inducing, right? It actually wasn't. R as a main character and narrator is very endearing with a blood thirsty edge, the setting and supporting characters were engaging and lively enough and it is an interesting premise, largely well executed.
Warm Bodies is not with out its holes however ...
For example, the whole Perry situation was a little absurd. The story goes that R eats Perry's brain and is flooded with his memories, experiences and love for Julie. He is so overpowered by the strength of these that they become a catalyst for R's change from flesh eating monster into sweet, sensitive human. Perry's ghost or whatever lives on inside R's mind long after he has finished consuming his brain, guiding him on his quest to turn around the fate of the zombie infested earth. However ... Nobody seems particularly shook up over the death of this innocent teenage boy. There are many admissions that Perry was ready to die, was tired of living his life locked up in the safety of the stadium which had been kitted out for secure habitation but which he found incredibly isolating and depressing, and couldn't see any future for a planet overrun with the undead and unlikely to recover and be rebuilt. This is all very well and good, but it was dealt with so lightly! Julie and her best friend Nora did not seem in any way to be grieving for this boy they had known and loved, and were more than happy to forgive R for ripping his throat out and subsequently snacking on his brain! "You killed Perry, R? You ate him, right? Oops! Never mind buddy, these things happen when you're a zombie I guess!" was Nora attitude to the whole debacle! It was of no consequence to anyone! Of course this is a community which is forced to deal with death on a regular basis, but surely there is still a grieving process when a loved one is lost. It can't just be a case of another one bites the dust, let's just move on and forget about it!
Another issue I have with this book is the seeming inconsistency of the portrayal of the zombie society. R describes his daily toil as life as a zombie, painting a picture of emptiness, aimlessness, disorganised apathy. However, apparently they get married, arrange hunting trips and hold classes for the children on how to kill and eat humans ... They are even thoughtful enough to bring take-out of arms and legs back for the others when a group of them travel to the city for a killing spree. What's that all about?! These are some very kind, community oriented zombies we're dealing with here! Creatures who are dead to life's joys, who spend their lives in a fog of monotony, who's only drive is a hunger for human flesh do not build themselves a church, do not take the time to learn how to fill a car with gas and do not collect and listen to Frank Sinatra records! I felt that it was an interesting take on the tradition portrayal of zombies as moaning, shuffling cannibals but to be honest, it was a little far fetched even for a fantasy story. To create a tense, emotionally absorbing work of fiction there has to be at least a hint of believability, the thing has to be logical to a certain degree and although I quite understand use of artistic license to allow the story to move forward, there were just too many times when I found myself thinking wait .... What?!
I did enjoy Warm Bodies though, it was fun and different and kept me interested pretty much throughout. I mean, there was a slow part in the middle, the fight scene at the end (there's always a bloody fight scene in these things!) was a little dire and the quality of the writing does drop down a notch about a third of the way through losing many of the pretty descriptions and metaphors which impressed me in the first couple of chapters. All in all, a solid three stars.