Review: Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura #1) by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura #1) by Jonathan Maberry
 St. Martins Press
YA Horror/Zombies
Benny Imura Series

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

REVIEW (I reviewed this wayyyy back when it first came out and I was still on Blogger, but it got lost in the move, so here it is, all prettied up and shiny!)
Rot & Ruin has zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. It also has all of the good stuff that usually accompanies zombies, thrills, chills, and of course, kills. However, Rot & Ruin is not a zombie book, not in the traditional sense. It’s a coming of age story in a time where everything is dangerous, and nothing is quite how it seems, and about the birth of a hero.

The book begins about 15 years after First Night, when the dead started coming back to life, and focuses on Benny Imura, 14, and his older, zombie hunter brother Tom. Benny is about to turn 15, and that means he’ll have to get a job, or his food rations will be cut in half. I’ll be honest, at the start of this book, I thought Benny Imura, our 15 year old star, was a whining, moody little brat and was actually worried that I wasn’t going to like him at all. On the other hand, his older brother Tom was a quiet, kind, strong presence that eventually grew into a much bigger role later in the novel. Benny tries his hand at a number of jobs before deciding, kicking and screaming, to go into the “family business”, aka zombie hunting, or as Tom prefers, becoming a “closure specialist”. Benny has fuzzy, vague memories about Tom running away with him and leaving his parents to the mercy of the zombies on First Night, and has nursed bitter resentment for him ever since. Benny idolizes the obnoxious, loud mouthed bounty hunter Charlie, and thinks his brother is a coward, not only for what he perceives happened on First Night, but because Tom rarely talks about what he does to put food on the table.

It’s only when Tom takes Benny out into the Rot & Ruin (the zombie infested area beyond their fenced in town), that Benny begins to realize just what his brother does on a daily basis, and his entire world view is turned upside down, and when his friend Nix is kidnapped by zombie hunters with the most evil of plans, Benny has to look inside himself to find courage he never knew existed.

This book was hard for me to review, because I recently read Patient Zero, and The Dragon Factory, both by Jonathan Maberry, and I absolutely could not put them down. So, perhaps unfairly to this book, I expected more of the same, just toned down for a Young Adult audience. Rot & Ruin took a bit longer for me to get into, but that was ok, because the payoff was worth it! There’s plenty of guts and action to please boy readers, and the characters show much more insight and maturity than many of the YA titles out there right now. There was also plenty to please this girl reader, and there were some heartbreaking moments that really made me love the characters. I wavered between a 4.5 and a 5 on this one, so I’ll give it a 5! I’ll eagerly look forward to the next Benny Imura novel!

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  1. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while but its definitely getting read this year! I could do with a great zombie book. As much as I want to see Benny mature I really want to learn more about his brother. Sounds like he has lots on his mind to hopefully vent eventually.
    Great review Kristin!

  2. Benny Imura and his friends will return in FLESH & BONE (September 11, 2012) and FIRE & ASH (2013)

    In the meantime, there are thirteen pages of free prequel scenes for ROT & RUIN available on the Simon & Schuster webpage for the book.

    And there are twenty-five pages of free scenes set between ROT & RUIN and DUST & DECAY. Here’s a link to the main page; access the scenes by clicking on the banner that reads: READ BONUS MATERIAL BY JONATHAN MABERRY:

    Additional free bonus scenes will be posed in 2012 prior to the release of FLESH & BONE.

  3. This was one of my favourite reads of last year – as the emotional journey Benny goes through is great and had me on the edge of my seat.You’re right when you say Benny wasn’t a sympathic character at first though. I will have to try patient zero though if it’s as good as this!

    • The only zombie books I’ve been brave enough to try are the “Forest of Hands and Teeth” and the resulting trilogy… But now that “The Walking Dead” is on hiatus I’ve gotta get my fix somehow! Thanks for the recommendation, and I’m going to look up “Patient Zero” as well!

  4. Amazing book i just finished a book review on it for school in my opinion far better then the hunger games. Just love the book read both in 6 days total i wish i had the 3rd right now!!!!!!

  5. I really loved this book! I can’t believe Patient Zero and Mayberry’s other works are even better! I’ll have to run out and get my hands on them asap!

  6. Pingback: Got Zombie? | Jenny Likes Books

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