Queer Rep: Bisexuality
Warnings: Graphic depictions of violence, gore, discussion of self-harm, suicidal ideation
[Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.]
Being a teenager is rough. Being a queer teenager? Moreso. And being a queer teenager during the zombie apocalypse, well… at least it can’t get any worse.
Cate’s life takes a cataclysmic turn on her seventeenth birthday. Now living in a world where the dead live and the living have lost their humanity, Cate and her sister struggle to survive. As if suddenly having to acclimate to zombies being a real thing isn’t bad enough, Cate soon discovers that not all zombies are as simple as they seem, and she just so happens to be immune to their virus.
“The End” is a book with a strong voice and a focused plot. If you’re itching for a zombie thriller, the biggest strength of this novel is that it’s everything you expect it to be. Unfortunately, its biggest weakness is that it’s everything you expect it to be.
My first few moments with The End had me jumping back to the book’s listing to check for a Young Adult tag. The End is not shelved as a young adult novel, and I honestly believe that was an error on the press’s part. The age of the characters notwithstanding, the narrative is highly colloquial and felt geared toward a younger reader. Or, at the very least, for someone looking to read YA.
The book is told on two timelines: “THEN” and “NOW”. This works well for the piece, and helps give the reader momentum. It was a saving grace at times, as the catch 22 for this novel becomes apparent very early: this book will give you the zombie story you think you want, but it will almost never surprise you.
We’ve seen zombie stories plenty: The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Day of the Living Dead… you get the picture. We know the rhythm and tropes by now. This novel follows them almost to a T, which made some of it fall just this side of boring. I could guess how things would play out, what would be introduced next, etc. Unfortunately, the hook the author promises in the synopsis—zombies who aren’t “just zombies”, and an immune MC—makes almost no impact on the narrative. Yeah, fighting the abnormal zombies is a bit rough, but they don’t do anything truly jarring or horrifying, and you never find out the how or the why behind them. For the most part, there’s not even speculation. Cate and her comrades handle them the way they handle all the rest, and they move on. I wanted something creepier, or something with more narrative weight, and all I got were some zombies that could run.
On the other foot, I’m a picky jerk about a lot of things, but I’m even more of a picky jerk when it comes to written action. M. Rose Flores is good at action, describing things clearly and succinctly with just enough gross “oomf” when necessary. In general all her descriptions and prose were wonderful. She had a tendency to over-explain things to the reader—obvious things that we could glean from context or would inherently understand—but the cadence and feel of her words was good. If she plays it less safe with her next project, she could hit one out of the park. She just needs to do the weird thing, give us the plot twist we weren’t expecting, and give the middle finger to some of the standard genre tropes.
The descriptions were good, so the setting was fine. We’re given the rundown towns and cities you’d expect from a zombie apocalypse. I actually wish the characters would have spent more narrative time in one place so we could have explored these places more; it was difficult to get attached to places and people when Cate and Melody moved at such a break-neck pace.
Cate is a cool kid. You get a sense of her character right away from the narrative style, and it sticks with you. She is just a kid though, and I sometimes had to remind myself of this when she did something stupid. Would teenage me have been smart enough to know better? Maybe, but maybe not. She also deals with real problems that make real sense given her current (awful) circumstances, and I liked seeing a proper portrayal of the mental strains a person would face.
I really liked Marco. I eventually grew attached to Calvin as well, but some of the more superfluous characters (especially toward the end) didn’t really stick with me, which made the climax less impactful.
I think if you’re looking for a YA zombie narrative, The End is for you. If you want something that’s gonna knock your pants off with new ideas, it’s not for you. If you just want to chill alongside some dudes while they cleave into zombie heads, dig in! Despite my very par feelings about this particular novel, I look forward to what else Flores will bring to the world.
Note: I am an Amazon Associate and I am using affiliate links. These do not affect you or my reviews.
From Ninestar Press: