Devil’s Wake by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes
Publisher: Atria/July 31st, 2012
I’m always willing to read a book in the interest of important zombie research, so Devil’s Wake was definitely on my radar. Devil’s Wake follows two teenagers, Kendra, a girl left adrift on her own, and Terry, one of a group of kids that make up the Red Meadows Five, serving their time as camp counselors instead of in the Washington juvenile justice system. After their bosses, Vern and his wife Molly are attacked, turning Vern into a zombie, the group decides to hit the road in a big navy blue school bus called Blue Beauty. Eventually, the little group crosses paths with Kendra, and she joins them, hoping to make it somewhere safe.
Safety is relative in this new world of constant danger, death, and loss, and our group has quite a haul ahead of them. Terry eventually emerges as the de facto leader of the group, although the physically larger Piranha seems to give him a run for his money a few times. Kendra is drawn to Terry, and although she comes off as quite dependent at first, she eventually holds her own. The group has heard rumors about an island called Devil’s Wake, that may be a safe haven, but they have to make it there first, and that means battling through groups of freaks (aka zombies), as well as human menaces. Constant vigilance is necessary, and I can’t imagine being a teenager in this situation, without any help other than fellow teens. I appreciate that they made quite a few mistakes, but also proved quite self-sufficient and streetwise, and the group dynamic is relatively conflict free. There are no descents into Lord of the Flies territory here, and I enjoyed the cautious optimism of these teens thrust into an indescribably horrible situation. The zombies are a little different in Devil’s Wake, though. Some zombies seem to retain shadows of their old selves, and can utter simple sentences, which ups the creep factor quite a bit. Also, Kendra has had dreams, even before the outbreak, that signaled something bad to come, so I’m curious to see if that will be explored further. The author are old pros, and it shows in the writing. We never really get to know any character too in depth, although of course we get to know Terry and Kendra a little bit better than the rest. While there is plenty of zombie action, the gore is never over the top, so this book could appeal to older teens as well as zombie aficionados. While no new ground is broken here, it’s an entertaining entry in the zombie pantheon, and the ending leaves things open for another book, strongly hinting at a burdgeoning romance between Terry and Kendra. I’ll be interested to see where the authors take this group of teens, and plan on picking up book 2 when it comes out!
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