I know it’s weird to get a book you don’t think you’re going to enjoy but we all do that from time to time, don’t we? Like going to see a bad movie specifically so we can tear it apart. It’s a like a whetstone for our critical senses, just something we can use to hone our wits and bring out the kind of absurd criticisms which are normally reserved for James Cameron films. A couple of times, this has completely backfired on me. I walked in to Evil Dead 2 with my sarcastic bon mots ready and walked out a fan for life of Sam Raimi. The same happened here.
I was really expecting to enjoy this book the same way one *enjoys* Sharknado – as an obvious attempt to cash in on a passing craze with it’s tongue firmly implanted in it’s self-aware cheek.
I was wrong. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is a good book. It’s a clever book. It’s a book which wears its heart on its sleeve in complete (and sometimes over the top) earnestness. It’s the story of Angel, a self-professed directionless loser who wakes up in the hospital one night with no real memory of the events which put her there and a note telling her she’s got a new job to get to the following monday morning, a job she’d better not screw up.
What follows is a rather simplistic murder mystery wrapped up in book length world building. In reality, this should not be book one of a series, but the prologue to book one, or book .5, or something. It’s nothing so much as explaining the new world Angel finds herself in as she slowly discovers she’s an honest to goodness, real dead zombie (no spoilers here, it’s in the title!) and then the process of her figuring out what, exactly, that means for her past and her future. Being dead may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Of course, there are complications, from Angel’s alcoholic abusive father to her slacker mechanic boyfriend to a series of unsolved murders, possibly the work of a serial killer… not to mention that new job and, oh yeah, a pretty intense craving for brains. This is where Diana Rowland really shines through. While there are certainly some pretty significant plot holes, Rowland gives us a fairly logical (at least new and original – for me) concept of what it means to be a zombie, why the all important brains are all important and how they can function in the regular world. It’s fun and refreshing, as opposed to some other recent zombie books I’ve read.
Rowland also does a nice job setting up our regular characters for sequels (there are already three additional volumes with, I’m sure, more on the way). Angel and her supporting cast are all carefully crafted, even if there are some too neat redemption set pieces and we’re left with no ongoing antagonist, no real foil for Angel to play against in future stories. At the end of the day, It’s Angel’s story and I think we’ll be rewarded for taking the time to hear it told.