From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up In this dystopian thriller set in London, everyone over 16 is dead or diseased, and youngsters are in constant danger of being eaten by boil-infested grown-ups who roam the streets like zombies looking for children to kill. Led by teens Arran and Maxie and armed with makeshift weapons, a group of kids sets out from the uncertain safety of an abandoned supermarket to travel to Buckingham Palace, where a young messenger promises that food, medicine, and a haven are available. Along the way, Arran is killed. One youngster selfishly decides to stay behind with a secret stash of food and is there to tell Small Sam, who had been abducted and feared dead, where the others (including his sister) have headed. Sam's quest to find Ella parallels the story of the large group with similar run-ins with marauding adults and mistrustful children who scavenge about the city. The bleak setting is filled with decay, danger, and puss-oozing parents who have turned into butchers. On arriving at Buckingham Palace, Maxie decides that David, the teen leader there, is too tyrannical, and she must regain control of her brood and convince them to leave for a new location. The last chapter squelches any real hope for the future and will leave readers somewhat haunted and chilled about the doomsday scenario. Descriptive and suspenseful, this title is similar to but less imaginative than Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series (Candlewick). Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
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The imagined zombie apocalypse has been the inspiration behind dozens of movies, books, and comics over the past decade, and though Higson adds few innovations, his gusto is something to behold. Eighteen months have passed since everyone over 16 succumbed to a virus that turned them into rotting, ravenous monsters, and there are enclaves of kids all over London eking out survival. Barricaded inside of a store, about 50 refugees have constructed their own society—which is shaken when a boy arrives spinning tales of a wonderful settlement housed within Buckingham Palace. The action from that point alternates between the group's harrowing journey across the city and the grueling plight of Sam, a nine-year-old whose separation from the pack leads to an encounter with cannibals. Some of the characters feel like placeholders, but the action is of the first order—Higson writes with a firestorm velocity that inspires to the sweeping reach of Stephen King's The Stand (1978). A muscular start to what looks to be a series. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus