Jeremy Barker has started a new school year at an exclusive Catholic boys high school, and though that part of his routine has changed, he is still caught up in his family's cycle. His mother and father have separated, and his mother has taken up with a new man, while maintaining her addiction to prescription drugs, and his father still engages in inexplicably absenting himself from the house each night. Jeremy's older brother Jackson is also addicted, but to sex and seduction. Jeremy is a passive watcher to all of the drama in his family and the everyday brutalities of the bullies in his school.
Zombie is a complex and multilayered book, which will probably reveal new aspects to the reader each time she re-reads it. However, the book just has too many parallel stories--the absent but controlling father, the weak mother and the older brother who is not fulfilling his potential, though they are all unified by the theme of addiction--while the author could have focused on just one familial mystery. Since the book is scattered in all directions and Jeremy is not the most reliable narrator, it is tough to care for any of the characters, except for Jeremy's too wise girlfriend, who is certainly too wise for the damaged Jeremy.
What Zombie isn't is a book about the zombie apocalypse, unless it is the metaphorical apocalypse of a family.
Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker is obsessed with zombie movies. He attends an all-boys Catholic High School where roving gangs in plaid make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father an ex-Marine realtor who disappears night after night without explanation. Jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland and Dawn of the Dead:
* Avoid Contact
* Keep Quiet
* Forget the Past
* Fight to Survive
The code is put to the test when he discovers in his father's closet a bizarre homemade video of a man strapped to a bed, being prepped for some sort of surgical procedure. As Jeremy--troubled but ever-optimistic--attempts to trace the origin of the video, this remarkable debut moves from its sharp, precocious beginnings to a climax of almost unthinkable violence, testing him to the core.