I read this a long time ago and absolutely loved it. So when I decided to take part in Zompacolypse 2011 I already knew what my book was going to be. I've talked about Generation Dead on several forums and I generally get the question "What's that?" Well today I'm finally going to do something about it. Generation Dead is an absolutely brilliant novel that deserves your time and attention. Let me tell you why...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.
All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren't staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them.
The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic." But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good.
When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?
It saddens me that there was such a blatant error in the GoodReads summary for this book. I had to correct it. Phoebe is not dead -- her crush Tommy is. And that's the thing that grabbed me when I picked this book up while wandering around a Walmart near Daytona beach, Florida in winter 2009. I couldn't help wondering how the author was going to solve that problem. Could he make me want them to be together? Would it be interesting or totally disgusting? I was intrigued.
But there is so much more to Generation Dead then whether Phoebe and Tommy end up together. Waters has created an entire undead culture and society. He addresses issues such as whether these new undead teens should have rights. He gives them issues that would plague living teens, but also forces them to deal with consequences of becoming zombies. In Waters' story, if you are a zombie who has people who care about you and love you, you regain your functionality -- essentially, you are more able to pass for human.
Then there is also Pete, who is devastated because the girl he loved, Julie, died and did not return. This has caused him to become a staunch supporter of the anti-zombie movement, something that plays a huge role in the overall plot of Generation Dead. There is also Phoebe's friend Margi, who feels guilt because of the death of she and Phoebe's friend Collette. And the fact that she still hasn't learnt to deal with the fact that Collette did come back as a Zombie.
Finally, there is a love triangle, of sorts, between Phoebe, Tommy (the Zombie she has a crush on) and her best friend Adam, who has been in love with her forever. To me, this is an area of the story that really shone. I love what Waters did here. I thought it was totally genius. But you'll have to read the book to find out what that is.
Phoebe is a likable lead. She stands up for her friends. She is interested in what's going on in the world around her. And she is brave enough to face the changes going on in her world without whining, or massive indecision or "to-stupid-to-live" syndrome kicking in and ruining the fun. I loved the fact that she is her own person and does not feel any need to apologize for who she is or how she feels. Start to finish I found her an enjoyable heroine whose story I was eager to get involved in.
Tommy is a leader among the zombies and is one of the more advanced zombies in the book. I love how Waters set up his zombies. They are not (all) mindless things dragging their feet and going "brains!". Instead, he creates them as a totally unique species and for a great portion of Generation Dead he uses Tommy (and Karen DeSonne, who is also awesome) to show the potential that a zombie can have.
Adam is Phoebe's best friend who has secretly been in love with her since forever. He plays football, is into karate, has a great sense of humor and is just all around awesome. I loved the fact that through Adam and Tommy we get the human perspective and the zombie perspective. I also like the fact that Waters actually succeeds in making both seem plausible. I was impressed with his ability to do this.
Lastly I want to give another shout out for Pete, who was an awesome villain, extremely complex and very believable. I hated him but felt sorry for him at the same time. It's strange how book villains so often fail to evoke that kind of sympathy from me that TV villains usually do, but Pete is definitely an exception. And make no mistake -- Pete is one tough, smart and merciless guy. I didn't feel for him because he was too soft. I felt for him because his situation felt like it could be real.
I had no idea what I was going to think of this. When you picture a zombie, what's the first thing the comes to mind? For me it's rotting flesh. Totally not romantic. And before I get in to talking about Tommy, I want to point out that Waters does not totally wuss out in this department. While there are zombies like Tommy and Karen, for whom it's pretty easy to pass as human, there are also zombies like Tak who have half of their faces missing.
Essentially, Waters gives is a compromise that fits in perfectly with the way that he has built his zombie species. Just like with humans, the zombies can be appealing or they can be ugly. They also stay dead if they die again, meaning that there is a definite sense of danger for them. This ties into the romance well, with Tommy being such an important figurehead and often being involved in political situations where he has no protection from anything people might do to him since the zombies do not have any rights.
At the same time we have Adam, who not only likes Phoebe but must put up with listening to her talk about her crush on Tommy and watching her pursue him. Despite this, Adam remains a constant source of support for Phoebe. He attends meetings to help the "differently biotic" and he does not give Tommy a hard time for being on the football team. (Yes, you did just read that right.)
I enjoyed the romance in Generation Dead. It was a bold decision, it kept me hooked from start to finish and what made me feel even the slightest bit strange wasn't the romance itself, but rather the fact that I was not repulsed by what was happening. Very clever work here.
Generation Dead has pretty good pacing. It also covers some pretty interesting themes, ranging from the meaning, importance and value of love, to what rights an individual should have regardless of their race / species, to the meaning of death and how we might react if loved ones suddenly had a second chance at life. There is a lot to digest here but it never really felt like the story was getting bogged down in it all. Rather, it felt like Waters took great care to build every aspect of the story so that it shone on pretty much every level imaginable.
If you like zombies, you should read Generation Dead. If you hate zombies, you should read Generation Dead. It's just that good; just that well done and inventive a twist on anything you might actually expect from a zombie book. If you somehow missed out on reading this book when it was released, I highly recommend that you go out and pick it up now. I am confident you won't be disappointed.