So The Walking Dead is done for a while and you need something to fulfill your zombie needs? Well, I’ve got the book for you. Now, there are many types of zombie books out there to read these days, some good, some kind of meh. But last week I stumbled upon one that totally won me over and made me realize that a book about zombies can be more than just a book about zombies.
I had seen Jonathan Mayberry’s Rot and Ruin at the library many times before last week, but to be honest I never picked it up to even see what it was about. Why? Well, this is where I make myself sound like a total idiot: I saw that it was written by a male author and decided I didn’t want to read it. I KNOW, I KNOW…stupid. But for some reason – and maybe it’s just the few books by male authors that I’ve read – I’ve never been blown away by a book written by a male. I’m not saying they weren’t good, they just didn’t give me the feels the way a lot of books written by females have. Up until now, the best book I had read from a male point of view (Beautiful Creatures) was written by a female (actually two – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl).
So what made me change my mind? Well, I was looking at books at Barnes and Noble and saw it faced out in their “Best-selling Teen Series” section. And you know how books sometimes look so much more appealing in bookstores than in libraries? Well, that’s what happened here. I looked at the cover, then read the back, realized it was about zombies, became a little skeptical, but took note and decided to pursue this series a little further.
The first book in the series, Rot and Ruin, was at the library later that week. I checked it out, but was still a little skeptical. Not only was it written by a male author, but the bar was pretty high when it came to zombie books. Before last week, the best zombie book I had read was Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth which, if you hadn’t read it, I also recommend. But guess what: this young adult written by a male author I had never even heard of until now knocked Hands and Teeth out of first place.
You guys, Rot and Ruin is AWESOME. Seriously. I really can’t think of another word to best describe it. There are very few books that make me think “I HAVE TO TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THIS BOOK” while I’m actually reading it. But that’s what I kept thinking. I wanted everyone who reads to run and pick up this book. It was that good.
The premise is one we’ve heard before: One night (they call it First Night) the dead suddenly started to come back and, in typical zombie fashion, go after the living. Anyone who dies, whether they’ve been bitten or simply dies in their sleep, comes back. But all of that is just so much more in this book. Mayberry has created characters that you find yourself caring about after just a couple of chapters. These people are just so real and their situation is so crappy that you’re rooting for them to figure something out to make things better. Chapter after chapter, I found myself getting more and more hooked, still amazed that a zombie story could have this much heart and soul within it.
It has lots of action, a little bit of romance (but not the overdone, annoying kind), humor, family issues, and, yes, heartbreaking moments. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’m just going to warn you about the Epilogue. Tears were shed, my friends.
I was so excited to start the second book, Dust and Decay, which I picked up while I was still reading Rot and Ruin. A lot of times if I check out the first couple books of a series at the same time I’m not in the mood to read the second one right away. But I think I was still setting down Rot and Ruin when I grabbed Dust and Decay from my bedside table. And it wasn’t because the first book ends on a cliffhanger, because it doesn’t, at least not one that makes you go, “WHAT??” No, I just wanted to read the second one as soon as possible because I just loved the characters and story that much. I’m halfway through Dust and Decay and, no surprise here, I’m loving it.
Honestly the best part of this book is that it’s a rich story. I’ve read some books like this that have lots of action but lose so much of the story. Too much dialogue, not enough meat. But that’s not the case with this book. It’s not just a coming-of-age story with zombies. It’s just something that you have to read and experience for yourself.
And you probably have enough time before The Walking Dead comes back on to squeeze in the whole Rot and Ruin series! So go read it. Like, now. Before the zombies come and get you.
Here’s a list of the whole series if you want to jump right in:
- Rot and Ruin (#1)
- Dust and Decay (#2)
- Flesh and Bone (#3)
- Fire and Ash (#4, to be published this year)
There are also three novellas I have yet to see at any library, but here ya go:
- First Night Memories (#0.5)
- In the Land of the Dead (#1.5)
- Dead and Gone (#2.5)
“There are moments that define a person’s whole life. Moments in which everything they are and everything they may possibly become balance on a single decision. Life and death, hope and despair, victory and failure teeter precariously on the decision made at that moment. These are moments ungoverned by happenstance, untroubled by luck. These are the moments in which a person earns the right to live, or not.”