Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
This is so different from most post-apocalyptic stories that I’ve read that I hesitate to put it in the same category. Readers meet Benny Imura as the story begins, about to turn fifteen and desperately in need of a job so the community doesn’t cut his food rations. After First Night, the zombie apocalypse, the world as we know it ended. Benny’s mom and dad were both killed, and he now lives with his older brother Tom. Although Tom is a zombie hunter, Benny considers him a coward because he doesn’t act like the two hunters that hang around the general store sharing “war stories” about their hunting adventures. He also has an inkling of a memory about Tom abandoning their mom and dad during the First Night, but even though it’s fuzzy, he’s sure Tom could have done more to save them. Benny and his close friend Chong apply for all the easy jobs they know about: locksmith apprentice, fence tester (for the fence that keeps the zombies out of Mountainside), fence technicians, and lots of more gruesome jobs having to do with completely dead zombie bodies. (Just imagine what pit thrower might do, for example.) Chong is able to find a job as a spotter (sort of like a forest ranger only watching for zom’s instead of fires) but Benny can’t find anything he’s willing to do. Out of desperation, he finally asks his brother Tom to take him on as an apprentice. Can I just say that what he sees outside in the unprotected Rot & Ruin changes the way Benny looks at life, zombies and his brother Tom? The last half of the book is an action-packed adventure that involves saving Benny’s possible girlfriend Nix, rescuing some kidnapped children, and perhaps even changing the course of humankind.
I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this book. Even though I love zombie and horror books, this book offers readers so much more than that. It made me think about the difference between life and afterlife, what constitutes a “good” person, what makes something heroic. I highly recommend this to all readers, both teens and adults.