Out of sight, out of their minds: It’s a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.
The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.
Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.
But they’ve changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they’re zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin’ fast, because that’s the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates’ next meal. It’s kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.
Combining the chill of THE SHINING, the thrill ride of SPEED, the humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and the angst of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Kirsty McKay’s UNDEAD is a bloody mad mash-up, a school-trip splatter-fest, a funny, gory, frighteningly good debut
Culturally confused Bobby has survived the week from hell; A ski trip to Scotland with her new classmates, amounting to little more than constant ribbing for her transatlantic expressions. All she wants to do now is keep her head down and get home without attracting any further attention from her British tormentors.
Opting to stay out of their way, Bobby remains on the coach while all but one of her cohorts pile, through thick snow, in to the secluded services. Irritated that her quiet solitude, not to mention her plans for a private pee, have been interrupted, Bobby does her best to ignore leather clad “rebel without a pause”, Smitty.
Outside the snow picks up, wrapping the bus in a white coat and cutting the passengers off from the outside world, until a single, hand slaps against the windscreen and swipes at the cold covering…
The new girl, the popular girl who touches up her lip gloss mid apocalypse, the rebel with a not so hidden heart and the nerdy, asthmatic conspiracy theorist- a group of people who would have avoided eating lunch together before the intervention of lumbering, reanimated corpses, but who now depend on each other for their very survival.
I know what you are thinking, a group of mismatched teens, thrown together for survival- been there seen/read that! Mckay embraces this and other familiar elements from horror stories and teen movies, infusing them with an energy and freshness that prevents it from feeling trite or clichéd.
The fantastically snarky banter and surprisingly tender heart-warming moments provide relief to the background of gore and mounting tension. The laugh out loud humor has prompted some comparisons with the fabulously funny “Shaun of the Dead” film. While Undead doesn’t contain the visual comedy and slapstick elements (although what Smitty can’t do with a snowboard isn’t worth knowing), I think that fans of the film will enjoy the black humor both mediums share.
While Undead has all of the necessary carnage, gore and violence you would expect from a story featuring teens battling flesh eating zombies, you can rest assured that you are unlikely to lose your lunch. McKay provides enough description to transport you in to frozen rural Scotland, but avoids the overly graphic details, which make some horror books hard to stomach.
As the tension built I was loathe to put the book down (and not least because I was reluctant to leave my safe warm, zombie free home to take my puppy out in the pitch black for her nightly constitutional), and I had to stay up in to the small hours to see how they would escape one perilous situation after another.
Verdict: Fun and likeable characters populate this eerie and atmospheric page-turner. I will definitely be picking up a copy of the sequel, Unfed when It is released next month.
Reviewed by Caroline