Published by: Atria Books
This book is not YA, but I first heard about it from Maggie Stiefvater and it has a blurb from Stephenie Meyer so I'm reviewing it here :).
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, noidentity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.
After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.
Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between.
1. (+) R, the protagonist - While this story focuses on humanity and what it means to be alive, R is what really grabs you. A zombie undergoing an existential crisis? Yes, please! His love of names, though he cannot remember his own, his friendship with M, his hatred for what he does, his rat-pack habits and the fact that he lives in a 747, his appreciation for human speech--there's just so much to love about his character. You want to sympathize with him. You want to be his friend.
2. (+) Julie, the love interest - Multi-dimensional, strong female characters always grab me. I love that Julie isn't afraid of saying what she actually thinks. I love that she gives R shit in the beginning. I love that she has a yellow wall for the future. I could see how R or anybody with such dizzying thoughts about life would be attracted to her. And though her character could just have been a symbol of life, could have just been "a blast of color" in a gray world, she wasn't. She was realistic.
3. (+) The story - Okay, I don't read zombie books. The last one I tried reading was Carrie Ryan's and I had to stop halfway through because I was just that bored. Warm Bodies is different. I definitely didn't expect the story to turn out the way it did... If you had to read any zombie book, I'd tell you to read this one.
4. (+) The World-building - This sort of goes hand and hand with #3, but I love what Marion did with the world building--that he doesn't spend so much time trying to explain why things happened the way they did and instead uses the zombie/death crisis to symbolize so much more, to really explore what it means to be human. And it doesn't come off as cheesy or underdeveloped. It's a heartfelt journey the whole way. ("What is left of us? the ghosts moan, drifting back into the shadows of my subconscious. No countries, no cultures, no wars but still no peace. What's at our core, then? What's still squirming in our bones when everything else is stripped?" (150).)
5. (+) The Prose - I can't say much about this since nothing I say will ever express the level of greatness that is Marion's writing in this book. "What happened to the world was gradual. I've forgotten what it actually was, but I have faint, fetal memories of what it was like. A smoldering dread that never really caught fire till there wasn't much left to burn. Each sequential step surprised us. Then one day we woke up, and everything was gone" (53). If, like me, you thought that Wither was well-written, you'll be blown away by Warm Bodies.
6. (+) Strange Humor - Maybe I have a morbid sense of humor but chapter one featured R feeding and "falling in love" with another zombie (after they walked by each other three times) and them subsequently getting married and having kids--I wanted to crack up as I pictured the moaning, grunting zombies exchanging nupitals.
7. (+) Integration of the Past - I loved the role that Perry (the victim the summary refers to) plays in all of this. Marion did a great job integrating the past into the story. I won't say anymore for fear of spoilers; go read the story for yourself :).
8. (+) Chapter Images - This was a random detail but was also featured in that video trailer. Instead of numbers at the beginning of each chapter, there are drawings of muscles, eyes, etc. I enjoyed that. It was fitting that R, who can't even remember how long he's been a zombie, would have his story split up not by numbers but by what he is, what he has become.
9. (+/-) Pacing - This is just a problem I have in general with stories that are character-driven. It was a bit slow for me, but at the same time, it was only 239 pages. Wither was so much longer & while I felt like Rhine kept repeating herself, R didn't. The pacing here is quicker than most other novels like it but still not fast enough for me.
10. (+) The Cover - So glad they chose to use this cover rather than the one Maggie Stiefvater had featured. I love the dramatic colors and the obvious symbolism of the open road. The red ribbons of what I assume is blood are also done in an artistic manner like Marion's prose. (I bet he would've had a much prettier way of saying that too :D).