It's an unfortunate truth that books that leave you face to face with an oh-gosh-what-will-I-do-now black hole upon turning their final page are few and far between. Last year I read 34 books, which is pretty good for me considering I'm such... a slow... rea... der... Sadly, only three of these books left me with a book hangover. You know the feeling; it's what you always hope will happen at the end of any book you pick up. Even if the story concludes beautifully, you stare down at the pages a bit shell shocked. How could you possibly read anything after this? How will you survive without the constant company of these characters you grew to love so much? How will you ever pick up a pen again? This, quite unexpectedly, is what happened when I finished Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion last week.
Honestly. Who knew? As someone who has repeatedly professed their aversion to zombies (you know, because it's very important to have strong opinions regarding fictitious beings), it's a miracle that I sought out this book. But I was curious and thank goodness for that!
Two lines. The two opening lines. "I am dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it." That was all it took. I was hooked. What's more, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to fall madly in love with it. Despite the main character R being rather slow to talk as a zombie, his thoughts are beautifully stitched together. "I long for exclamation marks, but I'm drowning in ellipses." R has such a clear strong voice from the very start and you can't help pressing your hand to your heart as he stumbles through sentences and his very existence.
Enter Julie, a scrappy teenager sent out from the safe confines of a nearby stadium on a mission to find medical supplies. The search is interrupted by a band of hungry zombies, R included. R promptly kills her boyfriend, but when he eats his brains, he relives a few brief moments of Perry's life. More specifically, moments spent with Julie. So when R comes to and finds himself face to face with this girl, he spares her and brings her to live with the zombies at the abandoned airport. There, not only does he begin to feel, but he begins to change. He wants to change.
My reflex is to shrug. The shrug has been my default response for so long. But as I lie there on the floor with her worried eyes looking down at me, I remember the feeling that jolted through me the moment I woke up yesterday, that feeling of No! and Yes! That feeling of anti-shrug.
And so, because he wants to change, he does. He finds a way to communicate, piecing together lyrics of Sinatra songs on a salvaged record player, and something to fight for i.e. protecting Julie. And, just give me a moment, because I just loved all the Sinatra references:
Yes, she knows what I am and what I do, but do I have to remind her? Can we just have a nice drive and forget certain things for a while? In the sunny fields of my imagination we are not a teenager and a walking corpse driving in a rainstorm. We are Frank and Ava cruising treelined country lanes while a scratchy vinyl orchestra swoons our soundtrack.
Not only was this story a refreshing take on Romeo and Juliet, it was refreshing period. I can't remember the last time I was so fascinated by a character. I found myself ogling at R and whispering, "What are you?" just like Julie. He made for such a surprising hero. He wants the world to change, so he starts the change within himself. It's heartfelt, broken, laugh-out-loud funny, risky, unique, and it had me wrapped around its pretty little finger from start to finish. And when I finished... it's embarrassing to type out loud, but I must have hugged it to my chest for a solid half hour. I then immediately went to Amazon and ordered a copy to keep forever, because I can't call my collection complete without it. Read it! Read it! Read it!
But now that it's over... No other book seems to stick! I haven't had a book hangover this bad in ages. Any recommendations?
P.S. I can't wait to see the film and truly believe Nicholas Hoult is the absolute perfect choice for R!