For supernatural romance/thriller week, I read Generation Dead by Daniel Waters. The story was intriguing enough that I went onto Wikipedia to find out what happens in the sequels (Kiss of Life and Passing Strange), but I did not really enjoy the book.
The basic premise for this series is that for some unknown reason, dead teenagers don’t stay dead, but instead come back as zombies. These zombies are otherwise normal people who are defined by the politically-correct terms of “living impaired” and “differently biotic.” The more a zombie is loved and cared for, the more alive he or she is (as in, the more he or she can talk, walk, move quickly, etc.). The rest of the novel basically proceeds from there as a straight-up high school romance. Living Phoebe falls for undead Tommy, while living Adam falls for Phoebe, and meanwhile living Pete does all that he can to get rid of the undead.
In other words, this is a story about prejudice, teenage love, friendship, etc. — except the race in question is zombies. This might work as an allegory, except that the only zombies are teenagers. For the analogy to truly work, there should be zombies of all ages. Then they would qualify as a race, and my disbelief might be more easily suspended. Also, are these zombies still decaying? Or are they in some sort of suspended existence? This isn’t really explained in the novel. The analogy to racism (and living people being afraid of the zombies) breaks down when one imagines a bunch of decaying corpses walking around. Not only are corpses foul-smelling and unsightly, they are also disease-ridden. There are good reasons why humanity has a natural aversion to corpses. The whole “falling in love with a zombie” storyline goes a little beyond the star-crossed lovers plot. The book almost feels like Waters is writing a parody of Romeo and Juliet-style teen novels.
One interesting notion is that love from living people makes zombies more life-like. What is the message from this? That without love, we are like the dead? Or that those who are well-loved will never truly leave us? That we must be loving and tolerant to our friends and family no matter what happens?
Overall, there are many ways to interpret this story, but it doesn’t work for me personally. I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief to embrace this particular supernatural scenario. However, I can see where it makes for a fun and thought-provoking story for young people. Issues such as racism are able to be tackled without offending any actual groups. The fact that this is a phenomenon uniquely affecting teenagers makes the story all the more apt for this age group. All kinds of life-and-death questions can be explored.
I would love to have a teenager read this book and discuss with me what they got out of it.
This series has several associated websites:
Daniel Waters’s blog: http://watersdan.blogspot.com/
Tommy’s blog: http://mysocalledundeath.blogspot.com/
Official Website: http://www.gendead.com/#/home
I have another favourite book that I was surprised didn’t make it onto the list for supernatural romance week, so I’ll discuss it tomorrow.