by Daniel Waters
Young Adult, 416 pages.
Phoebe and the gang are back and tensions at Oakvale High School run higher than ever. Since there are no human rights for zombies, Peter gets away with Adam’s murder. And Adam, completely different from the handsome, agile football player he used to be, must navigate his new afterlife. As more and more people try to eliminate the zombie menace, the differently biotic and Phoebe, their biggest supporter, must decide how to live and whether or not to go, ahem, underground.
In this sequel to GENERATION DEAD (see my review), Phoebe Kendall makes a very difficult choice between Tommy Williams, the articulate, intelligent zombie, and Adam, who loved her all through his life and who she must take care of in his living death. He isn’t nearly as mobile or developed, but Phoebe breaks this off with Tommy because Adam is where her heart belongs. Tommy, meanwhile, hits the road and leaves Phoebe and beautiful zombie Kelly in charge of his MySoCalledUndeath.com blog.
Meanwhile, a more radical group of zombies, led by the disgruntled Tak, start wreaking havoc to get back at society. The anti-zombie movement, which Peter has gotten mixed up in, of course, uses these pranks to frame the zombies in even bigger crimes, including a murder. As police and the FBI crack down on zombies and the formerly zombie-friendly Oakvale High bans them from lunch and then from classes, the community is thrown into turmoil. Even the supposedly friendly Hunter Foundation may not be what it seems. After a particularly vicious attack on the zombies, Phoebe and her friends need to find a place where they belong, and fast.
I really enjoyed GENERATION DEAD and KISS OF LIFE definitely kept my interest. However, not as much happened in this follow-up compared to the first book. It was pretty much the same formula repeated, only with danger coming from more people, not just Peter and a few anti-zombie radicals. Now it feels like the entire country is against the undead. Other than that, there is still the love triangle between Tommy, Phoebe and Adam, but it is just as uncertain by the end as it was in the first book. Phoebe loves Adam and we believe it, but their romance still has a doomed air about it.
Obviously, Waters is setting us up for a third book as he leaves many strands untied after the climactic human vs. zombie battle. We especially want to know what happens to Kelly, one of my favorite characters. Another interesting thread we get here is narration from Adam in his post-zombie state, where we can see his slow but steady progress toward movement, speech and thought. Watching his emotions develop is something I particularly enjoyed and it really settled the question of whether or not zombies can feel. Overall, a solid sequel that continues to raise interesting social issues, but nowhere near as interesting as the first.
For Readers: KISS OF LIFE is a good sequel for GENERATION DEAD fans. The world feels familiar by now and the dangers are still the same: zombies vs. zombie-haters. I wish there were more elements introduced into this world. The Hunter Foundation reveal was interesting and definitely hinted at but I don’t think enough was done (yet) with that storyline. Still, the franchise is good enough that I will read the third book. Just a caveat, I don’t think you’ll be very impressed with KISS OF LIFE if you haven’t read GENERATION DEAD first.
For Writers: Take a look at how Waters uses Adam’s narration throughout the book. Adam starts with halting, one-word sentences that illustrate his zombiefied condition and ends with some pretty developed prose. It’s a good narrative technique to master, especially if one of your POV characters is undergoing some sort of radical change. Just remember: “Style imitates content.” More on that later.