Saturday, October 31, 2015

Zomburbia (Zombie Apocalypse #1) by Adam Gallardo

19083252This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: January 2014
Pages: 368
Stars: 3.5/5

"I think that when we make mistakes, when we lose our way, that's when we need the love of others the most."
-Courtney's Father

Summary:
All Courtney Hart wants to do is get out of Salem, Oregon, a town going nowhere fast.  The problem, though, is that she doesn't have any money to actually do this.  Her dream is to go to college in New York, and find a cure for the zombie virus that's been running rampant all over the world.  This itself is a problem because New York is completely overtaken by the walking dead.  No one can take up residence there, but plans have been set in place to win back the city with an army.  However, these plans keep getting pushed back more and more, until her dream seems absolutely hopeless.

To have money to support her dream, Courtney works at The Bully Burger, a fast food restaurant, which doesn't exactly bring in the big bucks.  However, she is determined to be at the top of her high class and to see her dream realized to the bitter end.  To accomplish this fantasy, she sells the highly illegal drug called Vitamin Z which is exclusively made out of zombie brains.  When she's at The Bully Burger, she secretly supplies a packet of it on the side with the orders of those who know how to ask for it.  To make matters worse, Vitamin Z is extremely addictive.  As a result, even though Courtney sells it, she refuses to ever use it.

Business is booming, and Courtney has high hopes of making just enough money to leave Salem forever.  The only ties she has to that town are her two friends (Willie and Sherri) and her father.  Willie has a hopeless crush on Courtney that she never plans on reciprocating, and Sherri despises Courtney's side job of selling drugs.  Her father has no idea of her extra activities, either, and he seems to be trying to find a girlfriend for the first time since his wife left the family once the zombie apocalypse manifested itself.

At school, Courtney, Sherri, and Willie are on a low rung of the social hierarchy, which is just fine with them.  However, the jock Brandon suddenly bombards his way into Courtney's life.  The king of kings suddenly wants to befriend a lowly school peasant.  Sure, he appears to be innocent and interested in all things Courtney, but that can't be right.  Why would someone like him want to be friends with someone that he never showed interest in before, especially since they come from two totally opposite social situations?  Things just don't add up, but Courtney doesn't want to look this issue head-on.

As time continues to tick, our female protagonist starts to notice something peculiar: the zombies are getting stronger and faster.  The reason behind this mystery is just that, a mystery, and everyone around Courtney refuses to see this terrifying development.  The only person who remotely seems interested in zombie behavior is a man she saw on a talk show who believes that the living should try to communicate with the undead.  Courtney thinks that he might be on to something, but everyone else thinks he's a laughingstock.

As the end of the school year approaches, Courtney has a lot to figure out in her life.  What's up with Brandon?  Is he really the "Prince Charming" he appears to be?  Will Sherri finally get through to her, and convince her to quit selling Vitamin Z?  Is Willie ever going to convince the girl of his dreams to go out with him?  And what's up with the zombies?!

My Thoughts:  
I have very mixed feelings about this book.  There are certain aspects that I loved, and certain aspects that I didn't love.  To begin with, I adored the plot for this novel.  I thought it was intriguing, well executed, and fun to read.  I was addicted to the story line, and I ate up the novel because of it.  I also enjoyed how life in this book still had some semblance of normalcy even though zombies were running around terrorizing society.  What made Zomburbia unique was that it had an almost contemporary-like feel to it mixed in with a healthy dose of the undead!  Now, that sentence may have made it sound like there's not as many zombies or not nearly enough gore in it as a YA fan would anticipate, but I assure you that there is plenty to go around in this book!  However, it was nice to see some contemporary elements added in.  There was school, family life, parties, social anxiety, strain in friendships, and just plain ,ordinary struggles that got deliciously mixed in with the expected zombie-like atmosphere.

While some people have been put off of this book by Courtney's decision to sell drugs (Vitamin Z), I found that the author turned this into a wonderful opportunity to explore multiple areas that wouldn't have been an option for him otherwise.  He readily rose to the occasion and expanded on several heavy subjects.  Courtney was constantly plagued by her decision to sell Vitamin Z because she knew what it did to people's lives.  On the other hand, she desperately tried to make herself believe that she didn't make her customers buy her supply.  She wasn't the one choosing to become addicted.  After all, her customers made their own decisions.  What they did was their own problem, and she had no connection to them whatsoever.  As the story progressed, Adam Gallardo gradually formed this reoccurring thought in Courtney's head that maybe she was responsible for her buyers' choices, even if it was just in some small way.  Gallardo showed how she was actually indirectly linked to her clients because she willingly allowed them to harm their bodies and their minds with dangerous concoctions.  Perhaps it's easier to think of it this way: just because she wasn't the one holding the gun, doesn't mean that she didn't somehow help pull the trigger.  Gallardo did a fantastic job of demonstrating how each and every single one of us can affect a person's life, even if we aren't doing it directly.  

Now, my main problem with Zomburbia was with the characters.  I loved Willie, Phil, and Courtney's father, but the rest of the characters fell flat, at least for me.  I started off immediately loving Courtney.  Her snark and attitude were so entertaining.

I washed my face, scrubbed it really hard with some of my dad's apricot facial goop.  Did you know that they put ground-up walnut shell in it? It's really good if you want to wash your face and punish yourself all at the same time.  Multitasking.
-Courtney

Then, as the story progressed, her snark became more vicious than amusing.  On another note, Courtney can easily be described as heavily intellectual.  I loved this about her, but the more and more I got to know her, the more and more she downgraded people just because they didn't use a word or phrase correctly. She was quick to point out others' flaws and make those around her feel inferior.  However, I did appreciate how Courtney saw this fault in herself and tried to confront this problem, but more often than not, she reverted back to her rude behavior.  (I am glad that she tried, though.)  I also found it a bit annoying that she repetitively had these mental breakdowns in which she'd start to lightly laugh, then become uncontrollable to the point where her laughter turned into crying and then hysterical sobs.  This happened on more than one occasion.  I can definitely understand that Courtney was under a lot of pressure and stress.  I'm fine with a character losing it because it shows that he or she is human, but when it happens on three or so occasions in the exact same way, it can more than a little irritating.  Perhaps her mental state could have been written with a little more variety.

Brandon was another character that started out fantastic but then fell short for me.  I feel as though the author might have done this on purpose, though.  When Brandon first comes onto the scene, he seems genuine and real, even if I was extremely suspicious of him.  However, he was constantly referred to as a hurt puppy.  One minute he's fine, and then Courtney will say something to him that makes him go all doe-eyed and upset.  Then he suddenly seems insistent on becoming Courtney's boyfriend.  As a result, he was always calling or texting her or trying to come over to her house.  At other times, which I won't specifically name because of spoilers, he was completely disconnected from situations.  He didn't care when particularly horrible things happened to those around him.  Courtney was visibly distraught, but he was perfectly content in his own little world.  It was extremely frustrating, even if this was on purpose.

Lastly, the big ending of Zomburbia was definitely predictable, but it's funny because Courtney even saw it coming and voiced this before the conclusion.  This didn't bother me that much, though, because it was still extremely enjoyable for zombie fans everywhere.

At the end of the day, I did enjoy the first installment in the Zombie Apocalypse series, even if there were a few kinks, and I do intend to read the second book as well.  I read the synopsis for it, and I'm excited.  It looks promising!

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