Teen Book Reviews

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan MayberryI have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of horror movies.  The onscreen blood and gore turns my stomach, and I don’t like the surprises of a killer/monster/zombie horde leaping out and winnowing down the cast.  But horror in a book I can usually take, especially if there’s a great story behind it.  A good example would by Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry.  Perhaps you, too, would like to be up to your eyeballs with these particular undead.
The last thing 15-year-old Benny Imura wants to do is become an apprentice to his older brother Tom.  He has several valid reasons. He hates zombies more than anyone else in the survivor’s town of Mountainside, but his brother is a zombie hunter, going out into the great Rot and Ruin to track down zombified relatives of people in town and provide them with closure. He also thinks that Tom is a coward who abandoned their mother on First Night to be killed by the thing that was their father.

If he has to be a bounty hunter, he would like to be like Charlie Pink-Eye or the Motor City Hammer, a devastatingly powerful team.  But he does have to take a job or lose his rations.  A trip out into the Rot and Ruin with Tom starts to shake up Benny’s mind, and when an old mystery threatens those the Imura brothers love, it shows Benny there are far worse things in the world than the roving legions of the undead. 
The world created in Rot and Ruin is a fascinating place, and a very plausible idea of what our world might become if a zombie apocalypse occurred.  The story is filled with hundreds of little details of how the survivors cope (or don’t cope) in a world populated by the living dead.  Interwoven throughout the main story are the narratives of people who survived First Night and the stories that followed, as they are told to Benny. They're filled with a lot of detail and enhance the main story instead of detract from it.

Benny’s coming-of-age journey follows him as each of his ideas about life in Mountainside is shaken apart and replaced with the truth, making him into a strong young man who believes in right and wrong above and beyond the brutality of the world he lives in.  In terms of plot, there is all the blood and gore action sequences you would expect in a George Romero flick, interspersed within the world building narrative.  Readers looking for a short book with more of the former should seek out the Zombies Vs. Unicorns anthology or the books of Carrie Ryan, but fans of Max Brooks World War Z and the Walking Dead graphic novels will love this title.
Rot and Ruin is recommended for mid- to late-teen readers.  Check it out with other books by Jonathan Mayberry at MLK Library or your local DC Public Library branch today. 
-- Brandon Digwood