[Header image originally from @danielletmurray on instagram.]
This is actually my second time reading this book. In fact, I was reading the series as it came out but over time I, unfortunately, lost track of the releases and never got the chance to finish the series. I did, however, manage to get through 9 of the 12 books but instead of picking up where I left off (considering there was a pretty big gap in time), I decided to just start from the beginning and write a little review for each book a long the way. So for this review, there will be no spoilers whatsoever considering it’s for the first book.
For those of you who don’t know, Zom-B follows B, a teenager living in London where zombies attack. Even before the undead rise, B lives a life filled with racism and abuse that are just as important in their story as the zombies. Throughout, we see how all of those things can connect and we get to know B as our main character.
It’s strange really. Zom-B was the first (and possibly even the only) Darren Shan book I’ve read where you’re not necessarily meant to like the main character. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely feel a hell of a lot of sympathy for B and some of the things they go through in the book but there’s also a lot of horrible qualities that you can’t condone and make it impossible to fully like them. I will say this, I do remember liking B more and more the further into the overall series that I got. Even in this first installment, there seems to be space for a lot of growth and character development which is really the main thing that makes following B’s story so interesting. You don’t know for sure if they can change or not but the fact that there’s a possibility and they might just redeem themselves makes for a potentially interesting journey. Every single problematic thing B does or says even adds to that. They’re definitely a complicated character that you can certainly sympathise with but there’s really no push to accept them or even like them and it really does work for the story.
In fact, the racism throughout the book is done really well. It’s always painted as something wrong and completely inexcusable and part of that is the absolute horror when characters like Todd (B’s dad) are genuinely pleased and excited by anything remotely racist. There’s never a point where it comes into discussion (for the reader) as to whether or not racism is wrong, no matter what excuses are made by certain characters, it’s clearly always shown as wrong. Instead, the question is more in regards to the complexity of it and how many different factors can come into play. B, for example, isn’t necessarily an inherently bad person, there are a ton of factors that make them the way they are, but does that automatically make them good just because some of those things were out of their control?
It’s more those kinds of questions that Zom-B leans into as well as exploring other things such as exploiting people’s fears (no matter how naive or unbelievable those fears might be) or targeting those who might not have had enough of an expanded worldview to properly inform themselves. These things aren’t too prominent in this particular book but there are smaller examples of it throughout, in fact, one of the bigger examples involves a scene where B sees an exhibit about the Holocaust that really highlights that last point.
Don’t get me wrong, Zom-B doesn’t (only) feel like one big statement nor does it feel like it’s being shoved down your throat. There’s plenty of action and even some genuinely funny moments throughout the book. Along with that there’s an air of mystery throughout most of the story as to what is really going on and what might be yet to come in the rest of the series. Not to mention the artwork you get to see throughout the book as well which breaks things up really nicely!
It definitely is a really good opening for a series and B is, at the very least, an intriguing character to follow which is great considering it’s from her point of view. There are some pretty gross things in this book (and not just in terms of certain character’s outdated views because it is about zombies after all!) but something I’ve noticed over the many years of reading Darren Shan books, is that he writes it all so well and it never becomes too much to the point of being overkill. So, if you haven’t already, I definitely recommend picking this one.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ /5