Better Off Undead by James Preller

Published by Feiwel and Friends

Summary:  Adrian Lazarus often feels like an outsider in his seventh grade class.  Not only is he one of the only African American kids in a mostly white school, but he is dead.  Following a bike accident over the summer, he’s mysteriously become a zombie, and he’s not happy about it.  His nose falls off in the middle of class, and he has to drink formaldehyde smoothies to keep the decay in check.  Much to his happy surprise, he makes some new friends at the beginning of the year, including Talal a tech genius, and Gia, a girl who received mysterious powers after she was attacked by a swarm of bees.  The story takes place in the not-too-distant future, when ecological crises are raging around the world.  Many of these disasters are being caused by a couple of tycoon brothers who take a sudden interest in Adrian.  When he is kidnapped and taken to the brothers for possible experimentation, it’s up to his friends to plan his rescue and defeat the bad guys.  As Adrian overcomes one obstacle after another, he finds himself getting physically stronger as well, and a budding romance with Gia may mean a happy ending for him after all.  288 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I was surprised by the substance to a story I expected just to be silly.  The zombie aspect was funny, but also poignant, and led to some interesting explorations about what it means to be human.  There were also some environmental messages throughout, with an acknowledgement to Bill McKibben and his ecological activism from the author at the end.

Cons:  I was a little confused on a few details, including exactly what happened at the end.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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