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Isaac Marion – Warm Bodies

July 30, 2013

56. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (2010)

Length: 241 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Postapocalyptic Sci-Fi, Romance

Started: 15 July 2013
Finished: 18 July 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I loved the movie, even though I am not normally a zombie person, so I figured I’d see if the book was fun as well.

Surprisingly sweet,
for a guy with cold hands and
a non-beating heart.

Summary: R is learning to live with being dead. His mind still works, but his memory’s shot: he doesn’t remember what it was that turned him and almost everyone else on the planet into silent, shuffling zombies; he doesn’t remember any details of his old life; he doesn’t even remember his own name. Now the only memories he has are those that he can absorb when he eats the brain of one of the Living. But on one hunting trip, he eats the brain of a young man, the boyfriend of one of the other Living people in the group set upon by zombies. Buoyed by his memories, R feels an instant connection to Julie, and instead of eating her as well, he brings her back to his “home” at the abandoned airport. Julie is terrified – she’s miles away from the enclosed stadium she and the meager remnants of humanity call home, and surrounded by creatures that would happily have her for dinner. But R wants nothing more than to keep her safe, partly out of guilt for eating her boyfriend, but also because her bright aliveness is such a contrast to everything else he knows… and he can sense that maybe it could change something inside him, as well.

Review: I am not a zombie person. Well, maybe I am somewhat of a zombie person on undercaffeinated Monday mornings. But in terms of preferences? No. I don’t usually like (and have not seen many) zombie movies, and I don’t usually gravitate towards (and have not read many) zombie books. Zombies vs. Unicorns is a notable exception to this last point, but even in that case, the stories that involved zombie romances left me a little uncomfortable. Cold dead flesh is not romantic, folks! Ew!

So in the ordinary course of things, I probably never would have seen this movie, or picked up the book. But I had a friend who encouraged me to go see it, despite the fact that I don’t like zombies, describing it as “better than it had any right to be.” And it was. (Once I got over the fact that the lead is the little kid from About a Boy and stopped feeling like a dirty old lady for finding him attractive.) And the same thing is true of the book itself: it is better than it has any right to be. This book is a teen postapocalyptic romance. It is Romeo and Juliet with zombies, for gods’ sakes. It should be silly, it should be trite, it should be another rehashing of something that we’ve seen a million times. And yet, somehow, it is better than it should be. It is engaging and funny and sad and hopeful and beautiful and elegantly written and incredibly human. I got totally absorbed in this book, despite being in somewhat of a distractible reading slump, and despite the fact that I knew how it was going to end (the book sticks pretty close to the movie.

I loved the character of R, I loved the premise of him being able to think, to observe, and to narrate via his internal monologue, but not to be able to actually share his thoughts with anyone around him. Maybe thinking zombies are more my thing than mindless zombies; who hasn’t felt trapped in their own head from time to time? Julie is the type of character who had a pretty high potential to tip over into insufferable teenaged angst, but she managed to stay on the right side of the line, and the romance between her and R was touching and surprisingly sweet, considering that it started when he ate her boyfriend’s brain. The writing is fluid and poignant while still being light and without getting hung up on itself, and for every deep thought about what it means to be alive, and the nature of hope in a world that seems hopeless, there’s also an effective bit of humor. (On that point, I also loved M, R’s zombie best friend and the main – although not only – source of comic relief.) And it’s a minor thing, but the chapter headings are all old anatomical diagrams that have some relation to the action of the chapter. So clever!

So, while it may have just been a serendipitous meeting of the right book for the right mood, there is not a single thing about this novel that I would have changed. And that is why a frickin’ teen zombie romance is getting the first five-star rating that I’ve given away in months. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Beautiful and definitely worth reading. I’d recommend giving it a shot, even if you’re burnt out on paranormal teen romance or if you don’t normally like zombie books, or both (like me!).

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Book Harbinger, Buried in Books, Layers of Thought, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I’m dead, but it’s not so bad.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. buriedinprint permalink
    July 30, 2013 10:09 am

    I’d like to adopt that phrase “better than it had any right to be”. I haven’t seen or read this, but I certainly have it in the back of my mind, and I suspect that perfect mood will strike eventually. (Also, great first line.) I’m reading World War Z just now, but think this might be a better zombie-summer-reading choice for me.

    • July 30, 2013 7:44 pm

      BiP – Well, since I’m shamelessly stealing from my friend, you’re certainly welcome to adopt it from me! :) I’ve got WWZ on my shelves, and have for a while. I’ve heard so much about it but I am just… not a zombie person, normally. Maybe sometime soon.

  2. July 30, 2013 11:17 am

    Wow! I thought the movie was cute but I’m not sure I would say I loved it. You do make a convincing argument for the book though.

    • July 30, 2013 7:45 pm

      Kathy – They’re pretty similar (although the writing in the book surprised me with how good it was), so I bet that at the least, you will find the book cute too.

  3. July 30, 2013 5:40 pm

    Ohhhh, I have a copy of Warm Bodies and am happy you liked it so much, I will definitely have to move it up on my TBR for sure. Like you, I don’t find zombies romantic, but R intrigues me.

    • July 30, 2013 7:47 pm

      April – The more I think about it, the more I think that it has to do with the fact that we get full access to his internal monologue and are not limited to his few grunted syllables. (Which is another great thing about this book, that R’s got a thing about how many syllables he can manage at a time, and Marion is *very* careful about how he uses that.)

  4. Caity permalink
    August 1, 2013 4:58 pm

    I sampled the first chapter of this book yesterday. It seems cute, but what keeps me from reading is I’m really squeamish about blood and guts type of stuff, and I’ve heard some parts can get graphic. What I sampled was surprisingly readable, though!

  5. August 2, 2013 9:46 pm

    I found this book last year and loved it, loved it. The movie is so cute too, especially it’s use of music.If you like this book and the idea of evolving zombies, I highly recommend “Breathers: a Zombie’s Lament” by S.G. Browne, which is satirical and funny, and “Dust” by Joan Frances Turner, which is a little more serious, but also takes a look at Zombies from the zombie’s point of view.

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