From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-In a new take on the zombie apocalypse,17-year-old Michael and his 5-year-old, autistic brother struggle to find safety in the mountains of West Virginia. Michael keeps Patrick from freaking out by keeping score after each attack and relating his instructions from the Game Master each morning. Maintaining this facade becomes more difficult, however, as they meet other survivors and become involved with the mercurial Captain Jopek. Though the story is told in the third person, Michael's thoughts are in a distinctive, stream-of-consciousness voice that takes some getting used to but effectively brings readers deep inside the character's head. This freewheeling style, combined with Patrick's fondness for butt jokes, might appeal to younger readers, but the story is not all zombie fun and games; it is brutal bordering on horrific, and it packs an emotional wallop, particularly when it comes to Michael's determination to protect his sibling.-Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Hacking and slashing your way through the hordes of YA zombie novels can be a thankless, grueling task. But what’s this? A glimmer of postapocalyptic hope! Martin’s debut is the best of the undead bunch, meshing relentless action, intelligence, and emotion in a way that recalls Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008). Michael, 17, has managed to mentally and physically protect his 5-year-old brother, Patrick, for weeks among the flesh-eating “Bellows” by convincing Patrick that the whole thing is a video game, complete with levels, points, and—worst of all—cheaters. A victorious “Game Over” seems imminent when they meet a small group of well-armed survivors led by the powerful and commanding Captain Jopek. But Michael starts to doubt the man’s methods as the Bellows begin to mutate into more powerful creatures. The plot rockets forth like a single exhaled breath, tumbling with wild, thrown-together phrases (“a terror-syrupy moment”). Jopek, meanwhile, is a titanic villain of unstoppable strength, a never-ending threat to disrupt the fantasy world Michael has so carefully constructed. Martin has a knack for making bad situations much, much worse and for using Patrick to gentle comic effect. (During a horrific climatic battle, he deadpans, “You guys are butt-monkeys.”) Any last words? Yes! Very. Exciting. Book. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus