A review is a type of text that examines the quality of something or someone. As a part of the 222 challenge, your grading and the preparation for the FCE exam this year, you have to choose one of your 222 books and write a review for it that consists of an introduction (author, genre, key elements, …), a short summary of the plot (+characters;… no spoliers), your opinion (what you liked, disliked, comparisons, …) and a conclusion (recommendation?, …). Additionally, think about a catchy title. Your text should have at least 250 words and it should be posted before the Christmas break. If you choose a comic book or graphic novel, don’t forget to include the visualisation in your verdict. Below is an example for one of the books I chose.
Road trippin’ through Zombieland
Alden Bell’s post-apocalyptic zombie novel The Reapers are the Angels (Holt Paperbacks; 2010) revolves around a young girl’s quest for redemption and a sense of purpose in a frail, crumbling society. Temple, who seems much older than fifteen, travels through a devastated America to fulfil a stranger’s last wish. She comes across hordes of undead that devour indiscriminately and remnants of humankind that try to retain some humanity while surviving the world that comes so natural to her, the world she has been born into. The protagonist is far from the helpless, innocent zombie bait as often portrayed onscreen – she is a hardened survivor, a skilled opportunist and no one you would like to have as an enemy, especially not in the deadly wilderness that surrounds the tiny specks of human civilisation.
Temple (she sometimes calls herself Sarah Mary Williams – allusion to Huck Finn?) prefers travelling alone as her gruesome past is still haunting her and she never wants anybody to be dependent on her ever again. She comes across a small community of survivors, who want to take her in – but soon enough one of the men tries to force himself on her and she kills him in self-defence. The man’s brother, Moses Todd – who is a killer, a force of nature with a knack for tracking – swears to take revenge and pursues Temple, who is fleeing the alleged safety of human community to her own flavour of safety – the zombie infested wasteland. She continues her travels and meets a variety of colourful people, among them the helpless, mentally challenged Maury, whom she – despite herself – comes to feel responsible for. While fighting off zombies, mutants and the deadly Moses Todd, Temple is determined to take her charge to his family, who might still be alive in Texas.
Alden Bell’s debut novel was recommended by a member of my book community and what I had thought to be another copycat YA story in a genre that grows staler by the minute, turned out to be quite a page turner with a surprising, genre-defying end. This book shoudn’t be considered YA even if the main character is only fifteen. Her age makes the character of Temple all the more haunting. Some scenes, moreover, are mature or explicit and the author did not hold back with the violence and gore. Temple’s encounters during her trip ranged from entertaining to harrowing and served as incidents to display even more of the interesting “heroine”, whether she tried to charm survivors or hacked away at them with her Ghurkha knife. The story’s conclusion suited and elevated the novel.
While the feeling of a post-apocalyptic road movie with slight undertones of Justin Cronin’s Twelve was enjoyable, I often found myself distracted by the harsh contrast between the narrator, Temple’s inner voice and her Southern-ish speech type. The three didn’t seem to come together at times and disrupted an otherwise seamlessly flowing story. Although my expectations were low initially, I came to appreciate The Reapers are the Angels – maybe even more for bringing a new spirit and some truly interesting characters to the genre.
“Beyond the pursuit of meaning and beyond good and evil too, she says. See, it’s a daily chore tryin to do the right thing. Not because the right thing is hard to do—it ain’t. It’s just cause the right thing—well, the right thing’s got a way of eluding you. You give me a compass that tells good from bad, and boy I’ll be a soldier of the righteous truth. But them two things are a slippery business, and tellin them apart might as well be a blind man’s guess.” Temple, The Reapers are the Angels