And even if I were just writing this review to kiss ass, the review wouldn't be any different. Because I adored this book. Flat-out adored.
Hannah's books and I haven't always had the best relationships. Break, I had a couple quibbles with. Invincible Summer, I liked more, but wasn't totally in love. Zombie Tag, however, makes me feel like this.
/waltzes with book
And since my love for Hannah books seems to be growing exponentially with each passing release, this definitely bodes well for Gone, Gone, Gone, which I was already salivating for.
Anyway. Zombie Tag.
A while back, I used to be kind of leery of middle grade books. I mean, seriously, I'm like ten years out of their target audience. I used to kind of worry that I wouldn't enjoy middle grade books because I would feel too smart for them. Too sophisticated or something.
Well, with the amount of absolutely stellar MG books I've read lately, like Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, I've learned that this is totally false. And, if you're an older person wary of MG, I highly recommend you read that book and Zombie Tag to experience a complete 180-degree change of mind.
This book has so, so much emotional sophistication packed into its pages I couldn't even believe it. The relationship between Wil and his brother, Graham, was so believable and fraught with emotion. Anyone who's read anything by Hannah already knows that sibling relationships are her specialty, and this one is my favourite out of any she's written. MG is the perfect place for her family-driven stories. Not that her YA suffers for the family relationships, but I feel like it really shines here, in a story for a slightly younger audience.
But a younger audience doesn't mean a stupider one. The world-building in Zombie Tag is, I think, genius. It feels like our regular world, but just enough twists are given for the premise to be believable. One character's parent is a zombie researcher. There are mentions of a zombie outbreak thirty years in the past. These are my favourite kinds of settings: everything's fantastical, but in the most normal of ways. It's reality with a tiny twist.
It's common knowledge among zombie film/literature enthusiasts that zombies work best when they're a symbol for something else. They often represent the soul-crushing conformity that humans sometimes give in to. Hannah's zombies are a metaphor for depression, one that hit me hard. They have no emotions. They're like regular people, but they have no feelings. They're bland, boring, they can't bring themselves to care about anything. On the surface it makes a humorous premise for MG readers -- zombies are sad instead of raging monsters, ha ha -- but the layers of emotional depth here make them so much more. I saw a lot of myself and people I love who have suffered from depression in the zombies, and that made it an even more meaningful story for me.
Zombie Tag is funny. It's cute. It has a killer plot with a great twist. It works perfectly for it's young audience, but it takes on whole new meanings for older readers, which I think every good children's book should do.
In short, you need to read this book. Seriously. If you don't, the zombies will get you.