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Sam Finch and the Zombie Hybrid (Volume 1) Paperback – September 20, 2012
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Sam has made it into the King's training academy. He's poor and small, but doughty. He has an old rusty sword, but a good attitude. He picks up a funny and trusty fellow student pal and we're off to the races. Soon, he has a crush on a girl student with crazy skills, and then maybe a second crush on a girl who's training up on the magic side of the Academy. These crushes are charming and sort of puppyish, so this isn't a "romance" novel.
Rather, there may be a traitor around, odd happenings are afoot, and some questionable "accidents" have the Academy on edge. One student gets half-zombified, but that isn't really the heart of the book and this isn't at all a standard zombie-style adventure. Until the big action packed and suspenseful final chapters it's much more a comfy and agreeable school-daze sort of tale, as Sam tries to fit in and do well at the Academy.
As you might expect there are some big plot holes and gaps, but who cares? Aimed at middle grade readers, the book moves along briskly, introduces all sorts of interesting supporting characters, (teachers, students, villagers, villains), and gives us lots of scenes of student life at the Academy. There's only a little bit of the required bullying shtick and no mean-girl stuff, which is fine by me. The writing is smart and the humor is mild and good-natured. Sam is a decent, resourceful, and yet relateable hero who tries to do the right thing but is still basically a kid. The conversations among and between the kids are often smart and witty, with some nice dry and deadpan throwaways. This earnest but light-hearted tone carries throughout the book.
By the end we have a few untied threads left hanging, a solid team of friend heroes, and a promise of a second book that will tie up those final threads. The book struck me as good, solid and entertaining fun and a nice choice for a younger reader.
(Please note that I found this book a while ago while browsing Amazon Kindle freebies. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)