Benny Imura couldn’t hold a job, so he took to killing.
In the zombie-infested world Benny has grown up in, teenagers must work once they turn fifteen – or they’ll lose their food rations. Benny isn’t interested in taking on the family business, but he reluctantly agrees to train as a zombie killer with his boring big brother, Tom. He expects a dull job, whacking zombies for cash. What he discovers is a vocation that will teach him what it really means to be human.
As his worldview is challenged again and again by the lessons he learns from Tom, Benny is forced to confront another horrifying reality: Sometimes the most terrible monsters are human.
Zombies are my thing right now. I’m constantly on the lookout for YA books with zombies in them, and when I heard of Rot & Ruin, I knew right away I had to read it. And with good reason; this is easily in my top five favourites of the year.
Benny is fifteen, and now required to have a job if he wants to continue receiving food rations. The last thing he wants to do is work with his brother Tom as a zombie killer (Tom’s not cool like the other bounty hunters. In fact, Benny thinks him quite the coward), but when every other job he trys fails, that’s where he ends up. After one day out in the Rot & Ruin with Tom, Benny’s whole view of the zoms and his brother’s job changes. Still, he’s facing a rather large case of denial until his whole world is turned upside down by the bounty hunters Benny used to think were so cool. Benny makes the decision to face the Rot & Ruin outside the town’s fence, all to protect family.
Benny is an amazing character. In the beginning, he’s a fairly close-minded, judgemental teenager. By the end of the book, after going through everything out in the Rot & Ruin, Benny is significantly changed. He’s not longer so close-minded, he’s matured and taken on responsibilities, and yet…he’s still a teenager. And that’s fantastic. His relationship with his brother Tom is complex and real, and the path to their reconciliation is not smooth or immediate. Benny is stubborn, and it takes a lot for him to understand who Tom is (especially as there is an almost 20 year gap between them). Nix, Benny’s friend, is probably the other most important character in the book outside of Benny and Tom. Nix and her mother are close friends to the Imura’s, and it’s an event that happens to them that gets Benny and Tom moving and working together. Nix is really the lynchpin in the plot.
And the plot. Oh, the plot. So much love. Even just the idea of the Rot & Ruin makes me all kinds of happy. The fact that 6 billion people became almost that many zoms is just awesome. The zombies were done really well, with a nice mix of originality and classic zombie. The brain eating is a big part of zombies, you know, and if it can’t be brains specifically, there better be some general people eating going on (which there was). I’m not going to say too much about the plot, lest I give away all the nice little twists and surprises, but it is done well. The writing kept me reading, the plot and characters kept me captivated and the entire thing kept me oh so happy.
So, long story short, Rot & Ruin is a roller-coaster ride of zombie goodness, with just the right mix of thriller, action, mystery and drama to make it one amazing book. Basically, it has everything. Plus zombies. Which, right there, makes it worth reading. But seriously, I loved this book, and highly recommend it.