Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura #1) by Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Benny Imura Series
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!