Sunday, October 28, 2012

Discussion: Zom-B by Darren Shan

Yay, I am so excited to finally be discussing this!

First though, if you have not read this book I don't think you should read this post. I'm going to be posting full on spoilers and I feel like for this book to be effective it's best if you don't read spoilers ahead of time. Like I can't stress this enough and I realllly don't want the experience of this book ruined for anyone. Okay so now that we're clear on that.

Let's talk all who have read!


A couple of years ago, Nicole and I did a podcast (no longer available, sorry) on zombies. We interviewed both Mira Grant and Jesse Petersen and it was fun to hear their different takes on zombies. We really wanted to know why zombies are so popular in culture right now and why people are drawn to them. And Mira Grant said one of the reasons she thinks zombies are popular is that they are pure monsters. Vampires have been romanticized/humanized, but zombies can be seen as a common enemy that must be killed. So you have this target upon which you can unleash all your righteous anger and you can defeat evil, yay!

I think there's some truth to that, but there's also the common themes of what zombies represent. We use the word zombie in colloquial language for various refer to people unable to think for themselves, to refer to ourselves when we're over exhausted, etc. I haven't done any zombie studies (I totally would!) but the subject is interesting as is the way various authors explore these themes and ideas in their work. But...what if an author could be clever enough to tell a story about zombies and the way we are all kind of zombies, while exposing the reader's own....zombie tendencies? I think Darren Shan has done just that in Zom-B which is what makes it a delight.

Zom-B is written in such a way as to lead you to believe one thing is true, without ever explicitly stating that thing. It opens with a prologue of a zombie attack and a boy named Barry who is trying to survive. And then it launches you into the story of B, who is just trying to survive life--an abusive father with ideas are very racist. And he's not just racist, he's actively looking to make changes in society to limit the freedoms of others. This is B's main struggle you know, dealing with all the things she hears at home versus what she sort of believes to be true. She wants to make her father proud, but also seems to reject the idea of actually being a racist. And this struggle and conflict is always right at the surface.

But of course, I thought B was a boy throughout the entire book. I was genuinely surprised by the reveal at the end, and immediately wanted to talk about it. (which is why I set up this discussion day) and I love that Shan chose to subvert our assumptions in a book about zombies, in a book where B is struggling with the indoctrination she receives at home vs. what is right. Because it makes the book work on multiple levels. Of course, it is all based on assumption, on B's friendship with boys, on the fact that she's aggressive and picks fights (though how lightly she gets off for assaulting a girl makes so much more sense when you realize she is also a girl!), that she's strong enough to save that child, on the language she uses throughout the book. It never occurred to me to question the gender of B even though the book never explicitly states it until her father cries out in the end, "that's my daughter"

I also thought it was really odd how when they first hear about the zombie attack they all think it was manufactured to keep them in line! Like, I don't know if I heard about a zombie attack on the news, I'd believe it. I thought the zombies in this book were particularly grotesque, but I did like that it was a very immediate zombie environment. People had to make quick choices, they were immediately infected, etc. And of course having it break out at school was fantastic.

I'm not sure how invested I am in the overall storyline? Like the zombie conspiracy or whatever. I have to admit the way Shan played with my assumptions in this book is what made me love it so much, but I'm not sure about these ideas that B got some sort of treatment as a child or something? (I am just really clueless maybe I misunderstood that part?) I will definitely read the next book but I guess my expectations are not high.

I want to know what you thought, though!

Were you surprised B was a girl?
What do you think the story is behind the zombies?
How did you feel about the final zombie attack and B's survival?
Any other interesting things I failed to mention?




I loved this book! I felt the same about the surprise reveal at the end. When I finished it though I kept focusing on how important some of the themes of Racism and nature vs Nurture. Can a child in a racist abusive home change? Or will the constant exposure to hate just set B up for repeating her fathers patterns?

It's subtle but very important for teens to read things like this. I didn't pick up on Z having experiential treatments but after that ending something needs to happen if she is coming back!


I really loved this book it had great horror and action and B's gender was a real surprise . I also think its important that Shan spotlighted how hatred can be spread so easily from parent to child, the ending was a huge surprise for me , looking forward to book 2

Amy said...

i agree that those were really interesting ideas and that present conflict in her was so interesting.

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.