Illustrations by Douglas Holgate
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 13, 2015
When the monster apocalypse hit town, thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan was abandoned by his foster family and forced to fend for himself. Moving into the backyard treehouse, Jack has been able to survive even when most of the town has been zombiefied or eaten by monsters. Although he seems to have everything under control, he is relieved when he finds his best friend Quint is still alive. Living off of Oreos and Mountain Dew, the two create a plan to rescue Jack's crush June. While they search for her they run into the school bully, Dirk, who isn't so bad and soon they are a quartet of zombie hunting monster killers, with a fully equipped tree house.
Catching onto the zombie obsession of late, the genre has now made its way down into the middle grade reading level. Of course, the best way to make a story full of the undead age appropriate is to add a bunch of goofy cartoon-like zombies and a lot of kid humor. Jack wasn't the coolest kid when he went to school, but it turns out that he is actually really good at staying alive and killing zombies. For him, it is almost like a game, which he later admits is the only way he could function in this new crazy world without going crazy himself. There are the usual stereotypes. Quint being the obsessed gadget geek and Dirk being the big bad bully turned friend. Even June, who defies the stereotype of damsel in distress isn't anything special. But the story is fun and action packed and that is really what the author was going for here.
My only big complaint concerns the circumstances surrounding Jack and his abandonment. Jack is in foster care and when the monster apocalypse happens, his foster parents jump ship, leaving him behind. As someone who is literally in the process of getting a foster care license, this bothers me greatly. Firstly, because it continues the horrible stereotype that foster parents aren't really parents and don't care about the kids in their care, or at least not like they would for their own children. It also served no purpose to the story. The story could just have easily said that his foster parents had been turned into zombies, or were eaten by monsters, or even (like June's parents) were evacuated and got separated from him. Finally, Jack admits that he is an orphan which in the foster care system may mean that the people he is living with were actually looking to adopt him. I know I know, it's just a goofy middle grade action book, but seriously why do we have to keep treating foster parents like they are horrible selfish people who don't care about kids when most of them are just the opposite. Rant over. Obviously, anything I read from now on that concerns foster care or adoption will be judged just as harshly. I am too close to it to not see it through this lens.
Kids will love this book though. Heck, I liked it even with the foster care issue. There are just too many laugh out loud moments not to like it.