Review: Undead by Kirsty McKay

Published by Scholastic
Released September 1, 2012
272 pages
Where I got it: E-galley received from publisher via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Description (from Goodreads):

Out of sight, out of their minds: It’s a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they’ve changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they’re zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin’ fast, because that’s the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates’ next meal. It’s kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

Combining the chill of THE SHINING, the thrill ride of SPEED, the humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and the angst of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Kirsty McKay’s UNDEAD is a bloody mad mash-up, a school-trip splatter-fest, a funny, gory, frighteningly good debut.

If Undead were a movie, it would probably star a cast of unknowns and have a cult following. This book reads like a B horror film. It’s action-packed, but also doesn’t really have much more going on under the surface. A group of high school kids goes on a ski trip, where the majority of the class are inexplicably turned into mindless zombies. Four of them must fight to survive and get back to civilization, all while trying to figure out what caused the change. McKay loves tossing away one-liners like zombies love brains, and there are more than a few groaners here, which is appropriate for the subject matter.

The book takes place in Scotland, and there’s a bit of British slang, which I found kind of charming. Each of the characters embodies a high school stereotype, which has caused some readers to remark that this reminded them of The Breakfast Club. However, unlike The Breakfast Club, I don’t think any of the characters have big revelations of how they’re all basically the same, going through the same teenage angst. Nope, they’re too busy running from zombies for that kind of self-reflection, which is fine. I’ve said before that I think the best genre fiction uses the conventions of the genre to make a larger statement, but sometimes you just want something that’s a bit mindless and rollicking. This book fits that bill.

As far as zombie books go, the terror here is pretty minimal. McKay leaves the reader with an obvious lead-in to a sequel, so if this book is your thing, you’ll undoubtedly look forward to that. As for me, I think I’ve had my fill with Undead. 

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