Sometimes when you open Pandora's box, you get much more than you bargained for.
Like most children, Melanie loves stories and learning new things. She is the smartest student in her class and constantly surprises her teachers with the most curious questions. Melanie and her fellow classmates live in an underground bunker on an Army base. Every day, Sergeant's people come into Melanie's cell and strap her into a wheelchair before taking her into the classroom, careful to never put their hands near her mouth. When Melanie jokes that she won't bite, Sergeant's people never laugh.
What Melanie does not know is that she is a hungry. Several years earlier, a fungal pathogen quickly spread and turned people into brain dead monsters. While the adults became full-on hungries, some of the children experienced partial immunity. While they still feed on human flesh, they are high- functioning hungries that can talk, learn, think and feel. The children are captured, raised and studied on the Army base. Melanie's exceptional intelligence labels her test subject number one, and the scientists are saving the best for last.
Wow! This book really packed a punch. While I love to watch zombie shows and movies, I've never really been interested in reading zombie novels. In fact, I had no idea this was a zombie novel when I first started reading it. What I really loved about this book is how the author uses Melanie's character to explore a zombie apocalypse. While Melanie is incredibly intelligent, she is also incredibly naïve about her true identity. Throughout the book, she is forced to come to terms with what she is while trying to find a place in the world where she truly fits. She develops a great affection for her teacher, Miss Justineau, and her greatest fear is being the hungry who eats her. While there is definitely some gore to be found, the book's focus is not about the horror they face, but the humanity (or lack thereof) the characters experience while deciding what to do with Melanie.
The beginning and the end are what truly make this a great read. The middle slowed down a bit, and sometimes I just skimmed through the science-y jargon, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on a zombie apocalypse. I can definitely see this being optioned for film. It has generated lots of online buzz and was recently featured on NPR Books, and there's a great book trailer, too.
I am the adult services materials selector for Worthington Libraries. When I'm not chasing after my two boys, I like to sew, read and collect recipes (but don't be fooled, I never make any of them!).