Laura 's Reviews > Undead

Undead by Kirsty McKay
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's review
Jun 07, 2011

really liked it
Read in June, 2011

The very lovely Chicken House were kind enough to send me a copy of Undead, by Kirsty McKay for review.

Before sitting down to read this book, I had to have a long, hard talk to myself. Yes, I was thrilled to have finally made it into the world of happiness that is getting free books. Yes, I giggled at the fact that Chicken House addressed the book to "Not-Toooo-Scaredy-Cat Laura". Yes, I hope that Chicken House and other publishers will want to send me more books in future. But would I be willing to write insanely glowing reviews in order to achieve this latter ambition? Nope.

So, with much trepidation I opened the cover and started reading...

Thank goodness Kirsty McKay had written such a darkly funny book! It would have sucked royally for my first ARC review post to have been negative! Instead, I get to gush and hold on to my book-blogging enthusiasm! Yay!

McKay's story is told from the first person perspective of Bobby, a sarcastic teenage girl who has recently moved back to the UK from America. She's not exactly thrilled to be back, and is even less thrilled to have been sent on a school skiing trip to Scotland. Bobby is the typical outsider. She doesn't know anyone on the school bus and assumes that even if the did know them, she probably wouldn't like them anyway.

Well, she doesn't really get to give them a chance. Revelling in her otherness, Bobby stays on the bus with the driver and the class miscreant, Smitty. That's when the proverbial hits the fan!
The rest of the plot I'll let you enjoy for yourself. Don;t go expecting anything wildly original, but do expect a thoroughly enjoyable yarn with great pace, funny dialogue and gory action.

The characters of the book were at once hilarious and irritating! I liked Bobby immediately. I've always liked to think that if the world were to come to an end, or if I should ever have to save the Nakatomi Towers in a vest, or if I had to face down the zombie hoards, I'd be able to do it with an entire repertoire of witty one-liners and yippee-ki-yays! McKay's Undead is full of "...a kind of dark, nervy humour. When the apocalypse happens, you've gotta have some comic relief." (Taken from an interview with McKay, found on her website. Take a look, she's funny!)

Don't get me wrong, there are a few occassions when the one-liners are jarringly at odds with the grim reality of the characters' plight. At first this bothered me, but I soon got used to Bobby's coping mechanisms. I loved the way she and Smitty - the love interest you kind of want to kiss and to kick - bounced witticisms back and forth while facing down the undead!

Every old zombie flick has to have the vapid blonde who was more concerned with keeping her nails clean than she was about lending a hand to save the day. In McKay's book, that role goes to Alice. Oh, you're going to want to choke her with her Candy Couture handbag...
Then there's Pete. Pale, stinky Pete who plays the role of pasty-faced geek with a need to be right. While you're strangling Alice, you'll be silently reminding yourself to save some energy for Pete...

So the characters don't evoke sympathy, but they'll crack you up. More than that, you'll recognise them. You'll cheer for Bobby and Smitty. You'll roll your eyes at Alice and Pete pretty much every time they take a breath. You'll grimace at some of the gore. You'll never drink vegetable juice again...

This is definitely one for older teenagers as there are a few violent scenes, a creeping and constantly deepening sense of peril, along with some mild language. But then I like that in a YA book, when it's necessary. When a zombie is stumbling towards you, salivating and dead-eyed, nothing kills the mood (or the realism) more than when someone says "Oh bother..." It's patronising. McKay keeps it real, showing respect for the purpose of language and also for her readers.

Undead will hit the shelves in September and, I promise you, if you're into the classic motifs of zombie stories, it'll be well worth picking it up. This is a nice, little zom-com that will have you doubled over alternately gagging and giggling. A fantastic début!

Find out more about Kirsty McKay at her website, or through Chicken House.


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