In the Middle Monday is where I review books written for the middle school audience.
"On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the 'Holy Crap Factor.'"
Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who've banded together to battle the Corpses.
First, I have to explain that while I love reading about vampires, werewolves, fairies, and even demons (to a lesser extent) I definitely have a bias when it comes to zombies. Consequently, I have not read many books that feature the undead. However, The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses is an exception, mainly because it has everything I look for in a middle school book. It has an original plot that is action packed and will hold the attention of even the most reluctant readers, a strong male protagonist that will also appeal to girls, and secondary characters that are well rounded, dynamic and do more than just fill pages.
When 12 year-old Will suddenly begins seeing corpses, his first instinct is to wonder if he is going crazy. Within hours after his first encounter with the undead, he is rescued by Helene, the cute new girl at school and brought to an abandoned building in downtown Philadelphia where he discovers that he is just one of many teens who are seers of the undead and who have been fighting these corpses for over two years. He also finds out that his father, a policemen killed two years ago, not only knew about the corpses, but had been the driving force behind the formation of the Undertakers. All this takes place within the first 60 pages, and the action continues almost non-stop for another 400.
Will is a fantastic protagonist. He is clever, caring, and quick-witted, and as he processes the events that have brought him to the Undertakers, his actions and decisions are often emotionally motivated. Will’s character traits prove to be both a weakness and a strength and certainly makes him more real in terms of his youth.
While Will is certainly the star of The Undertakers, Drago has also created secondary characters, who add quite a lot to the story. Tom, the Undertakers’ leader, and his sister Sharyn both play a leading role in the story. Tom’s concern for the welfare of the members of the Undertakers is admirable, and it was easy to accept his maturity despite his age. I was also taken with Sharyn, whose fighting abilities made her a force to be reckoned with, and she offset Tom’s conservative approach and Will’s recklessness, making her an invaluable asset to story.
Finally, I have to say that as far as zombies go, the corpses are quite an innovative take on the undead. I am not sure just where this series will lead, but I for one will be following.
Source: Thanks to Kay at Sourcebooks Inc. for sending me a copy of The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses for review.