Author: Gena Showalter
Series: White Rabbit Chronicles
Publication: October 5th 2012
Paperback, 368 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but Alice in Zombieland has very little to do with Lewis Carroll’s classic. In fact, aside from the title itself and the white rabbit-shaped cloud that warns our Ali of danger, there’s nothing connecting the two. As someone who stays as far away from retellings as possible, I was overjoyed when I discovered this, but if you go into this expecting a new version of that story, you might find yourself disappointed.
Alice in Zombieland is, above all, a fun little book suitable for younger audience. While there are plenty of hot scenes and sexual references in there to contradict what I just wrote, the overall story lacks enough substance and depth to satisfy a more mature reader. This is mostly due to formulaic narrative and stock characters. That’s not to say, however, that this book is not worth reading – it is, as it has several things going for it, but it’s not nearly as original or exciting as I’d hoped.
The story is all too familiar: Ali’s entire family dies in a car accident caused by her schizophrenic father who was trying to save them from invisible monsters. After the tragedy, Ali goes to live with her grandparents, where she soon discovers that her father wasn’t nearly as crazy as he sounded. Monsters start popping up everywhere, but with them comes a group of young people led by the scorching hot Cole Holland, all of them trained to kill the zombies and defend humanity.
Although I liked Cole well enough, he didn’t even come close to provoking the reaction Showalter was going for. All the ingredients were there: the initial rudeness, the mystery surrounding him, the incredibly attractive looks, overprotectiveness, strength and impressive fighting skills, but I just never felt truly enthralled by him, not for a split second. It’s probably because, as a love interest, he seemed just a bit too plastic. Take this quote for example:
I knew he was strong, determined, protective, and that he cared about his friends more than he cared about himself. He obeyed no rules but his own. In the Wild West days, he would have been an outlaw.
It’s true, Cole is all those things, which makes him exactly like hundreds of other characters that showed up recently. I’ve seen authors work with this mold and still manage to create something unique, be it through the sense of humor or something else entirely. But Showalter just didn’t succeed in making Cole memorable at all.
Where she failed with him, she succeeded with Alice… at least up to a point. Alice is also a stock character, but unlike with Cole, Gena Showalter managed to breathe some true spirit into her, which is why she’s the only thing I’m sure I’ll remember about this book.
Oddly enough, Showalter’s take on zombies was the most original thing about Alice in Zombieland, and my favorite part, to be honest. Existing only in the spirit realm, they cannot be seen or touched by just anyone, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do real harm. In order to fight them, Cole and the gang have to separate their spirits from their bodies, and it’s the first thing Ali had to learn as well. While I’m usually a blood-and-gore kinda gal, I found it all very interesting, although a bit confusing at times.
All in all, Alice in Zombieland is a fun, but rather unmemorable book that, I fear, was written merely to satisfy the market, and not in a creative outburst of any sort. A lot of adult authors are deciding to write YA these days because, let’s be honest, that’s where the money is, but some manage better than others, and Gena Showalter falls somewhere around the middle.
Do I think this book is worth reading? Definitely, if you’re looking for a compelling, fun read you’re likely to forget in a short while. There are times when a reader needs exactly that.