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Wranglestone #1


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Winter was the only season every Lake-Lander feared...

In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there's nothing to stop them from crossing the ice.

Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he's forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he's always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over.

But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary's secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they've ever known.

An action-packed and thought-provoking debut, for fans of Patrick Ness, Marcus Sedgwick, DREAD NATION and The Walking Dead.

384 pages, Paperback

First published February 6, 2020

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Darren Charlton

4 books108 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 815 reviews
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
August 1, 2021
the gays are finally getting a zombie apocalypse novel, officially confirming that heterosexuality is cancelled
Profile Image for bri (hobbitslibrary).
248 reviews597 followers
September 5, 2022
I thought this was just going to be a rant review about how bad the craftsmanship of this book’s writing is but then this book became a metaphor for the transatlantic slave trade? And now it's a different kind of rant review.

(TLDR: The writing of this book is beyond messy on its own, but this book recreates the transatlantic slave trade with white people and uses that narrative framing to push colonialist propaganda and eugenics rhetoric. Though I would HIGHLY recommend reading this whole review to learn what these points look like within context so you can get better at noticing them for yourself!)

Honestly, I should’ve known something was up when the white MC mentioned he makes dreamcatchers on page 8.

So the writing of this book was bad from the get go. There were sentences that contained repeated clauses, sentences in which the subject of the sentence (in terms of structure, not topic) literally switched mid-sentence, and entire paragraphs that were near nonsensical. The pacing of the writing (not even the story necessarily) was so rushed and hasty and written in such an overly-simplified manner that I felt like I would blink and miss an entire plot point. It felt like I was skimming even when I wasn't.

There will be spoilers ahead, but you shouldn't read this book so don't worry about it.

Then I really started getting some bad vibes as the book began to unveil a larger plot. Essentially, the big plot twist of the book is that when people get infected by a zombie bite, they sometimes turn into zombies, and other times, they remain human, but just look like zombies. I was immediately plugged into the idea that this book was using zombies as some sort of metaphor for a marginalized group, though I couldn't put my finger on which one quite yet. (Spoiler alert: it's Black and disabled people, as it often is with zombie media.) With this reveal came a lot of really weird messaging. The main character is obviously horrified to learn that he and his community have been killing people they assumed to be zombies, which sparks a discussion around the idea of oppression stemming from fear and misinformation. And that rhetoric is... say it with me: colonialist propaganda! Because oppression is intentional and calculated hatred, NOT accidental. Any time you see a character (especially a character the audience is meant to relate to) learning that someone they've been hurting has only been hurt due to misunderstanding or fear, this should be a huge red flag.

Then, in this same conversation, a character who is one of these "not-quite-zombies" says some interesting things that raised some more red flags. Namely: ."..somehow some of those bitten by the Dead are returned to this world bearin' a resemblance to them, but not their darkness... what good is a soul when it's trapped inside a shell the world knows only as a monster?" and "...the world is at war with the Pale Ones and we're pale too. And no war is fought more fiercely that one fought without any doubts about who the enemy is. What if people did learn that some of us don't turn into monsters? Could a boy your age really go out there and take up the fight so freely if you weren't confident of who your enemy was?" So if we're going by the established metaphor that zombies are some sort of marginalized group, we're now establishing that some are "better" and "worthy of life" and others are still "monsters" and "unworthy of life"? Now at this point in the story, we aren't really given a concrete idea of why they believe some zombies should live and some should die, but we're already creating a pretty base level of eugenics and ableism in these few lines, especially when we keep in mind that this book is equating zombies as some sort of marginalized group. With mass oppression throughout history, we constantly hear this kind of language, categorizing entire communities into "the good ones" and "the bad ones." And usually "the good ones" in a marginalized group are those who are assimilating or performing within the standards of white supremacy. (This is very similar to the type of sorting that occurred during the Holocaust with autistic people, and how the concept of "Aspergers" came about, but this sort of rhetoric has occurred throughout history in the oppression of Black people, Latinx people, disabled people, Jewish people, and more.)

And then this is where we learn that the whole thing is a metaphor for the transatlantic slave trade. Essentially, one of the characters has turned into a "not-quite-zombie" and the MC is going with the other "not-quite-zombie" to go find and save him. We learn that when people are bitten by zombies, they are led to a secluded part of the forest behind a waterfall and are tied up to posts. If those people turn into "regular zombies" they are killed. If those people turn into "not-quite-zombies," they are sold as slaves in return for medicine and other supplies. I'll just type this part out for you. This is someone, titled "the traveller," looking to enslave the character who was recently turned into a "not-quite-zombie". "Now, you're young and you look like the real athletic type. I have no doubt you'll be able to walk right on in to one of them towns crawlin' with deadbeats and bring medicines and liquor safely outta there for me. If you play your cards real nice, I'll clothe you and bathe you. I mean, I can see you've soiled yourself already. I'll give you a nice home in the outhouse round the back of my cabin, and you and me won't have a cross word. But then again, we might." He then reveals he has a girl with him who he's also enslaved and continues: "Now, show this nice young man how difficult it can be for your kind if you don't play nicely,"... The woman did as she was told and slipped the dress from her shoulders to reveal the blistering whip marks across her back. At this point, it was undeniable that this book was essentially just a metaphor for the transatlantic slave trade, played out with white people and zombies. And this of course makes all of the narrative framing of the earlier statements really horrifying.

This scene also illuminates the previous ableism, by giving us the tools to figure out what differentiates the "regular zombies" from the "not-quite zombies." Their usefulness. The "regular zombies" are killed because they're "mindless" and therefore dangerous, when the "not-quite-zombies" can be considered human enough to be used as free labor. If the eugenics plot line was shaky before, this certainly solidified the book's stance.

I did finish the book, but after this reveal, nothing else really mattered. I honestly only finished it to see if I could find more terribly written sentences to laugh at (because I was so furious about the metaphor reveal), but it was just a lot of fighting, violence, and argument over the concept of "humanity." And it maybe could've had bits of interesting commentary, but once they placed certain "zombies" over others, it was all frivolous ableist nonsense.

I'd also like to briefly mention that since zombification occurs through infection, the narrative framing also implies that Black people and disabled people are naturally diseased. I hope I don't need to explain why that's a fucked up thing.

This was one of my first ventures into zombie media (I'm quite squeamish at films and TV) and wasn't aware beforehand of the origins of Western zombies. Zombies are actually a concept taken from Haiti, specifically from religious practices and beliefs, and turned into an inaccurate and commodified horror movie monster. And a lot of zombie media contains pretty severe anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and ableist sentiments. Which makes this book's concept and execution (if you can even call this mess an execution) even more awful.

On the bright side, this book had a sweet achillean romance and the MC's dad was genuinely one of the best and most supportive parents I've seen in media, especially queer media.

CW/TW: dead bodies, blood/gore, violence, gun violence, eyeball gore, drowning, decapitation, animal death, death, character death, grief, slavery, ableist and racist rhetoric, colonialist rhetoric, death of father (onscreen, SC), death of mother (past), underage drinking (brief), suicide (implied), sexual content (offscreen), cultural appropriation (dreamcatchers)
Profile Image for Sara.
1,080 reviews362 followers
June 1, 2021
Peter lives on a lake in the great American wilderness that offers a natural defence to the dead. Raised in a bubble of comfort and security, his trusting nature has made him a liability to the other Lakelanders. So when winter comes, and the lake starts to freeze over, he is given the task of herding the dead away from their homes with Cooper, the Lakes wilderness champion. But Peter harbours a secret crush on Cooper, a crush that will either make or break them when confronted with secrets on the mainland about Lake Wanglestones past...

This started out very strongly, with some fast paced and dramatic scenes filled with genuine horror. I was actually a little surprised at how gory this got, given that it's a YA, but I found it sets the tone just right, showing hints of terror without spilling too much into the overly graphic. The setting is also wonderfully written, with glorious descriptions of dark and menacing forests that ooze malice and ill content. The snapping of twigs turn into the snapping of bones and teeth, and the eyes that state back at you out of the darkness may not be very friendly. It's really well written, atmospherically, especially the first couple of chapters.

The writing is also very accessible and flows well, as we flit from scene to scene with Peter and Cooper. There's no real down time for the pair, as the story very quickly moves on when revelations are made, leaving little time for the reader to catch their breath. In some respects, this fast pace was detrimental to the overall storyline as the world and characters weren't really developed enough for me. There are a number of significant plot holes that I just couldn't let go of (the number of people casually bitten and cast off...yet no-one is that bothered? The lake should be empty by now. The numerous injuries people miraculously recover from? I could go on) and questions that are never answered. The second half of the book also goes down a story route that I just couldn't really get on board with. It's almost a book of two halves, with the second half just casually forgetting about the threat of the dead, and in doing so totally undermining the rather brilliant first half of the story. The tension is just sucked out of it.

I also found the relationship between Cooper and Peter to be a little too instantaneous for my liking. There's no build up of the relationship between the two, and no real backstory to explain their thoughts and feelings. It's just there and the reader is just suppose to accept it. There's no complexities to the relationship at all. I also found Peter and Cooper to be very one dimensional. Peter in particular is very one note. He's naive, innocent, knows nothing of the world before and his father has protected him from everything. And he never learns. His character does grow, he gains more confidence, but honestly - he's still the same too trusting kid from the beginning. Just slightly more annoying. More build up, more scenes together and also more backstory from the lakelanders would have really helped the story paxkmore of an emotional punch.

Unique YA LGBTQ horror, that starts off so well, but the tension and horror are hard to maintain when the world building and characters lack any kind of subtleties. I'm intrigued enough to continue if there's any kind of sequel. I have far too many unanswered questions not to.
Profile Image for halfirishgrin.
288 reviews177 followers
October 13, 2019
This was such a great read. A post-apocalyptic zombie novel that has a queer romance at its heart - what more could you want?

I really loved the romance in this, and the plot kept me on the edge of my seat. In fact, I was up until like 2 AM finishing this, just because I really really needed to know what was going to happen.

My only issue with this was pacing. While most of the novel was really well-paced, the last 50 or so pages just went way too fast. A lot happened in those pages and we didn't really get time to properly digest everything that was happening.

But I am super excited for the sequel!
Profile Image for Holly | The Caffeinated Reader.
46 reviews1,164 followers
March 14, 2022
I LOVED THIS. I loved this book so much.

Zombies apocalypse.
Queer love story.
And a secret that threatens to turn everyone's world ( well what's left of it ) upside down.

Please go read this book. I cannot recommend it enough.

Super fast-paced, loveable characters, the romance was adorable and super reminiscent of the excitement of first love. If you can't tell, I just really love this book and I need at least 10 books set in this world because I have so many questions.

5 stars and a new favourite.
Profile Image for Eleanor Grace.
109 reviews48 followers
June 24, 2020
This book is a classic example of the hardest book to review as a reader and blogger. I did not enjoy my time reading this, and I know that’s because I do not enjoy horror/zombie stories. I only picked this up for my book club and never would otherwise – sometimes it’s nice to be challenged in this way, and sometimes it REALLY does not work out. However, I also had problems with the plot and writing. For my rating I really had to dissect what I disliked due to personal taste, and what I disliked due to the actual writing. If I was rating this on enjoyment levels, it would probably be a 2 star. However, it does feel cruel to rate it that low based on the writing and plot. So, I am trying to take both those elements into consideration in order to review this fairly! What do you do in this situation?

I’m not here to tear this book to shreds, so I’ll keep it fairly brief. Overall, the plot just was not for me! Putting aside my distaste for zombies, because I have occasionally enjoyed media with that subject in the past when the plot line has been really great, this plot just did nothing for me. I was expecting from the cover and blurb, a gritty survival story with a sweet romance in the face of conflict. However, it really was less about that and more an adventure in search of truth. It just didn’t grab me and didn’t work for me – though this isn’t necessarily the author’s fault.

I also just didn’t feel any flair in the writing! It didn’t have any personality to it, and felt quite flat. There were also lots of funny time and location jumps that felt indicative of an inexperienced writer that made the story hard to follow in some places, and less enjoyable. For example, we end one chapter with our MC cuddled up in a secluded location with the love interest, and then the chapter changes and with no hints to time passing, his dad is suddenly there, they’ve moved and the LI is gone! This was just a writing style that didn’t work for me.

I also just found the romance very insta-lovey. It was wonderful to see this sort of story focus on an LGBTQ+ couple, and that not be plot point. It was not questioned by family or peers and there was no big coming out, it was simply normalised, and I love to see it. However, I still didn’t fall in love with this romance. These two characters admired each other from afar at the start of the story, both harbouring crushes, but had not ever really spoken and didn’t really know each other. However, their love story develops incredibly quickly – almost instantly – after they meet. I just look for a bit more slow burn and tenderness when discovering feelings for each other in romance plots.

Another problem I had was that I felt no connection to any side characters, and found them very forgettable. To the point that when characters from the start were called back to at the end, I couldn’t remember who was who. This made certain plot points have less impact for me, though I don’t want to get too into this as I don’t want to get spoilery!

Overall, I can totally see how someone would really connect to and love this book, however, it just was not for me! I would just say that this is not one of those books that is so amazing that it transcends genre tastes – if you like zombies, then go for it, but if this doesn’t sound like your thing then I’d give it a miss.
Profile Image for Elliot.
5 reviews
April 5, 2022
The plot seemed promising, but I didn't like the author's writing style. why's everyone scratching their armpits???
Profile Image for Brigi.
662 reviews57 followers
May 6, 2023
I wish I had read this in one go, or in fewer days anyway (especially since it's a fairly easy one to read). Zombie media is really not my thing, but the covers are sooo pretty, so I had to. There were lots of really good twists, and I'm excited to read more. The only thing I wish was different (and maybe this is just that I read it over such a long period of time), it felt disjointed in places, wherein some events would happen a bit out of the blue.

Rep: gay mcs
Profile Image for Huey .
41 reviews3 followers
April 7, 2022
You do not know how ridiculously easy it should have been for me to like this book. Zombie horror? Gay YA?? But all I got instead was the poundshop version of How to Train Your Dragon cross-bred with Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility.

Every character seems like an unfinished sketch, and the entire book seems to generally give the impression of a hastiness and imprecision. At a lot of points I felt like I was reading the first draft of the novel, or the plot synopsis - things happen so quickly and with so little comment that any emotional weight the book could hold is ultimately evacuated. Maybe I could have forgiven that if the author wasn't obsessed with re-enacting the transatlantic slave trade on white people, but I guess we'll never know.

I think the thing that really gets me about this book is how many interesting and productive lines of thought were botched in the novel in favour of clunky didactics. The concept of the zombie as we know it has its foundations in the slave trade and colonisation - discussions of whiteness and gender/sexuality in shows like The Walking Dead are such easy pickings for this book it's almost laughable - but nope, instead you're invited to stare at the shambling corpse of a race-evacuated race metaphor with a protagonist who's supposed to be relatable because he corrects people's grammar(??)

Idk. Just a bit disappointing innit.
Profile Image for Daniel Myatt.
592 reviews47 followers
January 29, 2022
A very enjoyable YA novel that covered a new twist on the "Zombie Apocalypse"

A very Interesting, engaging, and sometimes dark book filled with character's you instantly could picture.

Well written, so much so I felt my heart break in parts, or I found myself reading it with a smile on my face.
Profile Image for John Moore.
147 reviews8 followers
December 16, 2019
* I was supplied a review copy for an honest review*
Unfortunately, this book didn’t hit the mark for me. There was a glaring problematic issue in the book that I think needs rectifying before publication and I have passed this onto the publisher; I believe they need to respond to the issue before consumers pick up on it. The setting is beautifully written but the plot was difficult to follow, and the relationship somewhat problematic and unbelievable. At times, the prose took me away into a comforting wintery read but I think needed a thorough editing. Probably my most honest review ever but parts of this book made me uncomfortable.
Profile Image for Joe.reads.
22 reviews55 followers
August 22, 2022
You wouldn’t think it would be possible to dislike everything about a book, that you could dislike every piece of dialogue, every line of prose, every story decision made by an author. And yet Wranglestone exists.

God I hated this book. Hated every single sentence of it. I only gave it one star because the cover is very nice and all the pages seemed to be in the right order. I also liked the setting. That’s where the list of pros ends.

My main source of contention with Wranglestone is Charlton’s prose and descriptions any time any form of action happens. I would be instantly lost. Nothing ever seemed to make sense when he would describe it. The geography of his scenes didn’t cohesively form in my mind. And this lack of clearness doesn’t just pertain to his description. Charlton would seem to forget what he’d just written several times. Characters would suddenly be next to each other when he’d just described them as being apart. He would describe the scene as clear. A paragraph later the protagonist can’t see because of the snow.

Charlton also just seemed to be trying to do too much in one book. The mystery around the zombie apocalypse and the origins of the camp was a good set up, but it’s frittered away by too many shock deaths and lazy reveals. I was completely lost in a later section of the book set in a cabin. Characters would die suddenly, an antagonist seemed to completely disappear, and people would shoot rifles multiple times and then try to be stealthy. Characters that Charlton had tried to build into baddies were suddenly offed before we got a clear look at their motivations, destroying any tension I felt he so nearly had.

And I can see what Charlton was aiming for with the queer romance aspect of this book. But it is so often forgotten about or lazily shoehorned in. The characters seem to mention always having feelings for each other once or twice and then are seemingly completely in love. There is no build up, no tension to their relationship at all. We’re just supposed to believe these characters love each other because we’ve been told to, not shown it in any way.

All in all a very disappointing read, and its a shame because it was something I’d been so looking forward to.
Profile Image for Leanne Wain.
84 reviews1 follower
December 10, 2019
This book manages to be so many things simultaneously.
- A super cute M/M love story that is just immediately accepted as inevitable and lovely by everyone around.
- A suspenseful survival horror in a pretty unique location- think the amazing Tree Houses in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, but make it Waterworld...
- A chilly and rugged American National Park wilderness adventure, stuffed full of pine trees, buffalo and MOOSE.
- A thought provoking and oh so relevant commentary on Otherness, difference, the Us and Them mentality and mob rule.

It featured all the Riding Horses Across the Plains daydreams that have haunted me since playing Red Dead Redemption. It has the opposites attract and it's just destiny intensity of Brokeback Mountain. There are also shades of my fav Zombie classic, I am Legend for reasons that I will be vague about.

Gorgeously written, scary, compelling and very, very appropriate for frosty winter evenings.
Thank you so much to Stripes books for the finished copy.
Profile Image for Triston.
308 reviews41 followers
June 9, 2021
I mean it kept me interested? It dragged a lot, and the characters are quite underdeveloped and forgettable. The plot was a little confusing too, overall I'm a little disappointed. But it has a lot of potential to grow! And there were parts I did like, they were just few and far between unfortunately.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,134 reviews822 followers
August 16, 2022
“But you’re coming?”

“I’ll be right behind you.”

“But you’re coming!”

“I ain’t never gonna leave your side.”

Rerated 16/8/22

On my blog.

Rep: gay mc & li, side character with epilepsy

Galley provided by publisher

When I was about 13 or 14, I loved zombie stories. Zombie apocalypse books were my favourite sorts of dystopian novels, so when I heard about Wranglestone, I was particularly excited. And, for me, it definitely lived up to that excitement.

Wranglestone opens with Peter, doing chores outside, when someone shows up in a boat. Unfortunately for Peter, he is too trusting by half and ends up stabbed. When it turns out that this man’s wife is a zombie, Peter faces a reckoning. People in the community feel that he is too naive, and so he must join Cooper, a boy his age who helps herd the zombies from the lake shore, and learn about the world.

Hands down, the best part of this book is the relationship between Peter and Cooper. Yes, it develops quickly, but that’s sort of understandable if they’ve known each other for their whole lives anyway. And it’s also definitely the softest relationship I’ve read recently, where they actually communicate as well, so there aren’t any points where you want to scream because they’re being obtuse. They are that good.

But this book wouldn’t get by on their relationship alone (at least, I don’t think it would). Luckily, it’s also a book where a lot happens, so you’re fully engrossed in it the whole way through. I’m fairly sure I read the entire thing in one sitting (which, okay, isn’t that impressive given I read a lot of books in one sitting, but one sitting where I didn’t want to put it down, as opposed to making myself get through it). I had finished the book before I even knew it, and it’s definitely one that will leave you wanting to know what happens next.

If there was any sort of weakness in this book, though, it was that, on occasion, parts of the speech felt incongruous. Either like they weren’t entirely replying to the previous statement, or that they didn’t feel like they fit quite with what was happening in the scene. It didn’t occur that often, but I noticed it often enough to clock it.

Overall, though, this is a solid zombie novel, and definitely a book and an author I will be coming back to.
Profile Image for Olivia.
709 reviews120 followers
September 30, 2022
Hm. Olivia and hyped books, rarely do they go well together, and yet I keep picking them up.

I enjoyed Wranglestone but didn't love it despite the post-apocalyptic setting and the queer romance.

A strong opening paired with a great premise. A gripping voice, written in accessible prose. But the rest felt rushed and unfinished. The world-building is shaky at best. The romance is too swift, and the characters are minimally developed, one-dimensional at times.

An entertaining read for sure but nothing more.
Profile Image for harvey hanson.
142 reviews3 followers
December 2, 2021
This was a HIGHLY anticipated read for me, and it did NOT disappoint!

Loved this so much. At one point I literally threw the book across the room. Emotions ran high.

Beautiful story and such a lovely book! I am going to be pushing so hard for Barnes and Noble to carry this so I can sell it to every customer who comes into the store.
Profile Image for Lily Rooke.
Author 3 books96 followers
January 27, 2022
Peter lives in a treehouse in the isolated island community of Wranglestone, kept safe from the monsters who roam the forests by zombie-wrangler Cooper. But with winter fast approaching and the lake icing over, the undead aren't the only threat to Peter and Cooper's newfound love and happiness.

This book gave me all the feelings. It's filled with soft, gentle yearning, perfectly juxtaposed to the harsh world the characters endure. I loved Peter as a protagonist, so incredibly sweet, yet so unprepared for life after the apocalypse, and painfully aware of that fact too. Cooper was such a lovely love interest, I adored his zombie cowboy personality and really admire the author for how they managed to express so much through so little dialogue. The first half of the novel, especially, was so atmospheric, the world beautifully described and evoked. I felt the growing chill of winter, and was transported to the beauty and danger of the world of Wranglestone. The event that happens halfway through the book shattered me and made me feel sick, which is I know I loved the characters deeply. Since the author doesn't shy away from horror and psychological fear, I felt like perhaps more could have been done to dig into the horror of the traveller and Cooper's experiences after the first half of the novel, but perhaps that will be explored more later on.

My one criticism would be with the climax and the handling of the antagonists/villains. Because Peter and Cooper go off by themselves for a big chunk of the novel, and we don't get to see the relevant members of the rest of the Wranglestone community much at all after the scene where Peter is chastised for putting them in danger, I honestly didn't think most of the relevant characters held any importance to the plot, and none of them had much of a hold on me, so to me, the big reveal lacked power and urgency. I actually thought Peter and Cooper's dads were going to be the antagonists, and were pretending to be supportive of their sons, but in saying that I'm still really glad to see such uncomplicated parental support on the page. I did find Peter and Cooper's romance ARC quite fast, although perhaps that's understandable considering how their lives work? Even if it makes sense for the characters and world, personally I would've preferred a slower burn. Equally I felt more could have been made of the passion in their relationship, since they are so committed to one another and deeply loyal and true, I would have loved to have seen how this was expressed on the page.

This is a gorgeous story, and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for Gemma ♕ Bookish Gems.
483 reviews220 followers
June 23, 2020
This was great! I absolutely loved the setting. It led itself so wonderfully to an isolated community surviving I'm a world overrun by the dead! I liked the characters a lot and really felt connected to Peter and Cooper.

The writing is very atmospheric and there were a lot of moments that were so creepy moments they made my skin crawl! A lot of gasp out load moments and also a lot of really sweet moments!

There were a couple of things that knocked a star off. The pacing was a bit off in places. Especially towards the end which just seemed to go so fast. Might have benefited from another 50 pages or something just to draw that action packed ending out a bit more. And then sometimes the it seemed to jump about a bit and we left scenes that I was really invested in and went back to them but it felt like I'd lost a bit of momentum.

Overall, really enjoyed it and I have SO MANY QUESTIONS so I cannot wait for the next book!!!
Profile Image for Mehsi.
11.9k reviews361 followers
March 9, 2020
Zombies, twists and turns, secrets, and a very sweet romance that had me shipping like mad.

I was in need for a new zombie book and when I saw this book a few months ago I knew I had to pre-order it. After some issues (Amazon didn't seem to get it in stock, so I turned to BD but that always takes 2 weeks before it arrives) I finally received the book and I could read it. I was immediately sucked in. The setting, the romance, the creepy zombies lurking in the woods, OMG.

Since I am bit tired after a busy day I will write this review as a good/not so good review.

Let's start with the Good, and there is A LOT of that.
-Cooper and Peter's relationship. I just LOVE when we have a romantic plotline in a book that is so grim and dark. And these two have the cutest relationship. Peter has been pining for Cooper for ages, which includes chopping wood in the morning as Cooper is passing by with his canoe. Yup. This boy chopped so much wood they can live for the next winters. :P Though Peter is pretty oblivious to Cooper's feelings and at times I just wanted to throw him in the water. COME ON, he asked you out. Isn't that obvious enough for you? Then again, a part of his obliviousness stems from his insecurity.
Later on there are added things to their relationship that need to be talked about and that needs to be looked at. It won't be easy, but I know for sure that these two will make it.
-The zombies. They were spooky and creepy and it was just haunting how the zombies would appear along the shores waiting and lurking.
-The fact that the whole community was on stilts/on islands. I would have definitely loved to see more of this community in other seasons other than late fall and beginning of winter. Sure, we get plenty of descriptions which had me very happy, I could already envision the kids and adults swimming in the lake (though I was also disgusted as people did seem to poo/pee in it....) and having a great time. I loved that everyone's mode of transport was canoe.
-This is a spoiler so I am putting it under spoiler tags.
-The secrets. What really was Wranglestone? Why is it so important? What is going on with the bringing of those who are infected/bitten? It was really interesting to see everything unfold and to see every bit of the puzzle come together. I really had so much fun trying to figure it out on my own before the author would show/tell us. I loved the secret and OMG, that could have changed so much.
-That Peter was gay and that no one in the community seemed to mind or care. Instead people were rooting for them (and then especially the dad and Darlene). I also loved that he was so well with his hands and could fix anything if it was crafts related. While it may not be the best skill to have when zombies want to chomp your head... it is a useful skill in the end. Especially since someone has to make the clothes (though it seems they just strip the zombies here, um eww) and make homes feel warm and safe.
-There are many scary and frightening scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. The author wrote them really well.
-The ending and all that happened there. OMG, I already couldn't stop reading and now I was just flying through the pages as it was just too good. Of course, I won't spoil anything, but I will tell you it sets a nice base for a next book.
-The dad was a great character. I loved how he cared about his son. PLUS, something you don't often see in zombie books, he has epilepsy. He has something that may hinder him in this world, yet he perseveres and has been living in this topsy-turvy world for 16 years.
-Rider! I just loved his character, though I also wanted to give him a big big hug for all he has encountered in his life. For all that happened to him and his family.

Not so good:
-It just felt a bit too convenient what happened to

What I would like to see:
-More of the world surrounding this park. I would love to go to towns and cities and see how things are there.
-I wouldn't mind a prequel with the story of the dad and mom of Peter and see them seek sanctuary in this crazy world.
-More Rider please!

All in all, I could probably talk about this book for ages. I just love it so much. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a zombie book with lgbt romance and tons of secrets. I can't wait for the next books, and again I want a prequel!

Review first posted at https://twirlingbookprincess.com/
Profile Image for Andrew.
824 reviews134 followers
February 2, 2020
Review Taken from The Pewter Wolf

***Book given by publisher, Stripes, in exchange for an honest review/reaction***

I hate zombies. Out of all of the well-known supernatural creatures in pop culture at the moment, zombies freak me out the most. Hence why I’ve never read/watched The Walking Dead and it took the Other Half YEARS to make me watch Zombieland (it was in the cinema on our first date but, due to me hating zombies, we watched District Nine instead). There are exceptions to this rule - though it is VERY rare. I adore the Old Kingdom series (starting with Sabriel by Garth Nix) and I have read books and series where they are hinted at, but normally, I stay away.

So why, I hear you ask, did I was to read Wranglestone so badly? It’s a zombie book. Yes, but it features at its heart an LGBT romance. And this is the main reason I wanted to read this. I haven’t heard or read a zombie book that has a same-sex relationship as the main romance before.

Set in post-apocalyptic America where the Dead are Restless, one of the few safe havens is Lake Wranglestone. But Peter never feels like he’s fit in the safe community. He’s not like Cooper, a boy he’s always watched from afar, who’s strong and brave and fearless. Peter is more a homebody. And when he puts the community in danger after naively allowing a stranger to come ashore to one of Lake Wranglestone’s islands, he is forced to leave the islands and help Cooper herd the Restless Ones away from the shores before the lake freezes.

But as the pair realises that’s something to their long-held feelings for each other, both discover a dark secret about Wranglestone. Meaning they have been lied to their whole lives…

I am going to admit this right now, it took me most of January to read. I know, this isn’t because I didn’t like the book. I did! But I found time to read really tricky. Work and real life suck at times for a book blogger/vlogger as this is a secret, second-yet-unpaid job. If anyone wants to pay me to read and blog full-time, go for it!

Sorry, will behave now.

So… Wranglestone. Ok, where should I start?

This is an interesting debut novel as the writing and prose are beautiful. On this front, it was strong and it carried me along with the story. And I found the romance between Peter and Cooper a joy to read (though I know some of you will go “It’s very insta-love” but with the situation, both characters having crushes on each other and a few other factors, I will forgive this) and I found what this book was adding to zombie mythology quite fascinating and intrigued to see how this builds throughout the course of the series.

I do have some problems. It mainly comes down to two factors: pacing and plot complex. I get why, don’t get me wrong. I completely understand why the first 100 or so pages were slow - world building and getting readers to understand. But at the 150ish mark, the pacing goes up several gears and you are running. You need to be on the ball when the gear shift happens as the plot gets darker and more complex. And because of this, there were several times I had to stop and reread a page or two back to keep everything straight in my own head.

Despite these flaws, this shows signs of being a promising start to a new series and I can’t wait for the next instalment!
Profile Image for Muffinsandbooks.
1,055 reviews738 followers
August 18, 2022
Alors, au début j’ai kiffé, après j’ai un peu décroché. Après j’ai rekiffé et puis j’ai re décroche, mais c’était moins grave parce que c’était la fin du roman. En fait c’est un style d’écriture très particulier et le rythme est aussi assez spécial, un peu saccadé... en tout cas il faut reconnaître que c’est hyper original et que l’ambiance que l’auteur a réussi à créer est incroyablement bien faite (et pesante, du coup). Pas tout à fait ce à quoi je m’attendais, mais une lecture intéressante quand même.
Profile Image for Léa.
304 reviews1,639 followers
May 3, 2021
➶ 2021 books: 62/60

After hearing this synopsis and being a massive fan of the walking dead and post apocalyptic stories... I was super excited to read this. This story follows a post apocalyptic America where a community survives in a national park surrounded by water that keeps the dead away... but when winter comes, there is nothing to stop them crossing the ice.

Going into this book, I was really expecting it to be incredibly suspenseful and frightening and whilst at times it definitely was, I only truly felt at the edge of my seat at the climax. For a Young Adult horror I think it was lacking in terms of gore, body horror and yet again, the ability to put me on edge. I was really expecting more from this book and unfortunately it just didn't deliver.

What I did enjoy about this book however was the LGBTQ+ element of the story and how love was able to blossom in such an atypical and disturbing new world. I adored the relationship and thought that the problems that occurred for these two characters, was incredibly well thought out and developed. I also really loved the variety of horror. Not just 'zombies'/the dead but so many other elements were intertwined into the story.
Profile Image for Alex.
609 reviews66 followers
August 3, 2020
I was hoping this would be a 5-star read, but it just wasn't. I expected it to be spookier and the romance part didn't really grab me, but the mystery part was nice.
Profile Image for Jayne.
22 reviews
August 16, 2022
The way this was written made me feel like I was missing out on bits of context all the time?
Profile Image for Dawn.
31 reviews
September 1, 2022
My primary emotion upon finishing this book was confusion. Confusion at what on earth was going on in the plot of this book, confusion as to how it managed to get published in that state, even more confusion as to how it has so many good reviews.

There is swearing and significant violence, so it definitely isn't a children's book, but wow, it read like one. I don't think it would be fitting even to the younger YA audience. The text size is huge and the sentences are so simple and basic that I would have believed you if you'd said it was written by a kid in primary school. The plot was flimsy and rushed, and I found myself missing major plot points - I assumed I was just skimming, but I reread sections and still had no idea what was going on. The book has a substantial page count, but the word count per page is so low that I wouldn't be surprised if it's under 60k, and I felt it really could have benefited from at least another 20,000 words to develop the world and the characters, and to actually give time to let the plot unfold.

The concept is good, and I would love to see a well-written version of this book (lowkey tempted to rewrite it because I'm invested in the gay couple) - but sadly it just felt like they had accidentally published the terrible first draft written during Nanowrimo, rather than the refined final edition. There were sentences that didn't even make sense. I struggled to the end, a) because it was a short book and I'm behind on my reading goal, b) because I was excited for my first 1 star review on Goodreads, and c) so that I could reassure myself that if this book can get published and achieve a relative level of popularity, my own WIP definitely can.

An extract that I feel particularly encapsulates the overall quality of this book:
Peter remembered Cooper's kiss. How his hand held the back of his head, his face, his chest and buttocks too. But for some reason the word snowflake broke across Peter's lips like a forbidden secret. He sat for a little while longer, but his head felt heavy. He slumped back into his pillow and felt the irresistible pull of sleep behind his eyes.
He was drifting off when he heard the front door creak open.
Peter sat bolt upright. He glanced at his dad, but nothing had disturbed him. He stared at the gap in the door and told himself it was just the wind. Nothing could get up to the tree house while the rope ladder was drawn up, nothing. Peter whipped the quilt aside and stood up to close the door. But it was too late. Something was already there.

The representation was a redeeming quality, though. It was refreshing to see a casually gay couple who weren't stereotyped and whose queerness wasn't even commented on once, by themselves or by anyone else. We also had disability rep and possible neurodivergent rep as well (although not confirmed).

Overall, this is the worst book I've read in a long time, and I would recommend it to anyone who either wants to laugh at some truly terrible writing or get an ego boost about their own chances in the publishing industry. Who knows, you might enjoy it - my opinion seems to be an unpopular one, after all.
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