What exactly happens to a person’s mind when they’re bitten by a zombie? R knows he has lost a huge part of himself to the virus, including his name, but that doesn’t mean he stops thinking – or dreaming. He spends his days wandering the airport he and his fellow zombies have overrun, losing himself in routine of walking in circles, as he tries to remember. He even has a friend he can talk to (albeit very slowly).
Despite this R is still a zombie: a monster that craves human blood. Until he meets Julie, a human girl, and find he has to save her life or reasons even he doesn’t know. Can R still be human in some way? Is it possible he’s falling in love?
Warm Bodies starts off beautifully. Through R’s first person narrative, we are shown the inner workings of a man who has become a monster, still clinging onto the last few pieces of his humanity. He wonders who he is, as “R” is all he can remember from his name, and tries to forge relationships with other zombies. He understandably becomes obsessed with human creations, like music, to try and feel connected to humanity again. This novel also uses the interesting idea that the reason zombies eat human brains is because they can relive a person’s memories through this. This leads to a hilarious scene between R and his friend M, sharing a brain like two teenagers sharing a joint.
If the book had continued in this fashion it would have been five stars. Then along come the love interest, Julie. This girl has survived a zombie apocalypse, watched the world fall apart around her, seen her boyfriend eaten in front of her, yet spends the whole book whining her life is so hard and that Daddy doesn’t love her enough, because he’s trying to save everyone else and fix the world. It’s near impossible to believe that she’s so special that she is supposed to be the one who cures all the zombies by spreading love. Also, how could you fall in love with the zombie who literally ripped apart your boyfriend right in front of your eyes?
The book would have worked so much better if it had been the story of R’s redemption by facing all the monstrous things he’d done to survive, but he is never punished for his actions and all the people he has killed, not even by himself. In fact, Julie forgives him for eating Perry, her boyfriend, almost instantly because they were having relationship problems. By eating Perry’s brain, R is (somehow) able to communicate with the dead man through his memories – these scenes are very weird and disjointed. The whole book was written in a a poetic style that felt forced, like the author was trying too hard.
Warm Bodies could have been such an amazing novel, but it quickly lost its harsh, realistic edge then continued to go downhill as it tried too hard for a “happily-ever-after” ending, which ruined it completely.