Monday, October 14, 2013

Review - Eat, Brains, Love

Eat, Brains, Love (Eat, Brains, Love #1)
by Jeff Hart
Date: 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 352
Format: e-book
Source: library

A laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly romantic, zombie road trip novel filled with heart—and brains. Eat, Brains, Love is perfect for fans of Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies.

The good news: Jake's dream girl, Amanda Blake, finally knows his name.

The bad news: it's because they both contracted a mysterious zombie virus and devoured the brains of half their senior class. Now Jake and Amanda are on the run from Cass, a teen psychic sent by the government's top-secret Necrotic Control Division to track them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends and set off in search of a cure for the zombie virus, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own—one that will lead all three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't know what I was expecting from this one.  No, actually, I do know what I was expecting from this one.  I was promised a funny, romantic story reminiscent of Warm Bodies.  That was not what I read.

Instead, this book is a half-baked teenage "romance", complete with references to rip-offs from other zombie works.  (What is it with zombies and vinyl LPs?  Is it like some required trope in zombie fiction?)  Aside from the superficial similarities, about the only thing that Jake has in common with R is that both are aware of their condition and don't really want to be zombies.  But while R has the heart of a sensitive poet, Jake has the heart of a nondescript, violence-desensitized teenage boy.  As you can imagine, the characters come across as quite different.

Unfortunately, the weak characterization in this novel prevented it from being anything more than a gratuitously gory story.  Aside from a couple of mentions of hair colour, we don't even know what many of the characters look like.  Imagine my surprise when, at nearly the end of the book, one character that I'd been imagining as white turned out to be black!  (If it's not important, don't mention it.  At least, don't mention it near the end of the story when readers have already created their own mental pictures of the characters.)  The story was told in alternating first-person points of view, switching between Jake (the zombie) and Cass (the psychic).  Both were so badly developed as characters that they might as well have been created ten minutes before the start of the book's events and just dumped there.  We never got to know who these people were before they were enemies, so it was difficult to care about either of them.  There were a few references to family and friends and a few things that happened before Jake went all zombie and Cass had to stop him... but they seemed like afterthoughts.  We didn't even really know what kind of people they were.  Both were kind of blank, as far as personality went.  Jake comes across as a mindless teenage boy; he's not even horny enough to be interesting.  Cass is even worse; she's in over her head and she wants to go home... but home to what?  This is a girl who apparently had no friends and no life to go back to.  I'm having trouble even coming up with ways to describe what I didn't like about these characters.  There just isn't enough there to even criticize!

The plot, at its most basic level, was okay, but kind of cheesy.  It reads a bit like a zombie/X-men mash-up.  On the one side, you've got Jake and Amanda, who are trying to get to Iowa and a rumoured cure for their zombiism.  On the other, you've got psychic Cass and her evil overlord boss, Alastaire, who are trying to stop them.  Okay... but I might have liked the plot better than I did if it had been resolved!  It was not, and as there is no hint of a sequel*, I feel really cheated.  What's changed since the beginning of the book?  Not much, other than the fact that a few more redshirts are dead and we've now got a love triangle.  The main conflict isn't resolved and the villain just disappeared.  That is not how you end a stand-alone novel.

Another thing that may be an issue for many readers is the amount of gore.  Warm Bodies had gore, to be sure, but it wasn't gratuitous like it was here.  I don't know if the author was trying to be funny by being so overly descriptive, but the disgusting descriptions of blood and guts came across as almost gleeful, which I found off-putting.  If descriptions of people's heads being turned into pink mist by a gun blast or zombies eating intestines à la Lady and the Tramp sound like they might be too much for you, you might want to give this one a pass.  Or, you know, give it a pass because it's not a complete story in its own right and shouldn't have been published as a stand-alone novel in the first place.

*Note: Since I first published this review, a sequel has been released.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.57 out of 5


  1. Ugh, and this had such a cool cover and premise! I'm sorry you didn't like this more, but "half-baked teenage 'romance'" and rip-offs from other zombie novels really don't sound appealing. And the best part is that zombie novels don't need to be original, because it's hard to come up with really unique zombie ideas, IMO.

    "Imagine my surprise when, at nearly the end of the book, one character that I'd been imagining as white turned out to be black!" -- I know what you mean! It happened with one other book I recently read. All the while I thought the dude was white, and then the author suddenly threw in "dark skin," and it totally mixed up my impressions of him. I'm usually fine with zero descriptions, but just as long as the author doesn't suddenly come in and BAM us with a description that changes all our mental images of them.

    The story does have a lot of similarities to WARM BODIES. Not sure what I think of that, especially since Jake doesn't really sound like the lovable and cuddly zombie R is, you know? And unresolved endings are the worst. The villain just suddenly up and disappears? How does that even happen? I agree, that's not even an ending in the first place!

    I have to admit that I love gore. But "gleeful gore"... not so much. That's more like sadism, which I'm against. But thanks for this great and honest review! Any interest I had in this book has been officially killed. I really do love the unique cover, though.

  2. I'm officially sad. When I first heard about this book, I got so excited. It has all the right pieces and I was really looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, now that reviews are coming in, it sounds like it's a big fat pile of wasted potential. *sighs* Too bad. Especially the characters, if the characters are flat, chances are I will not like it.

  3. Hmm. Gore doesn't bother me, but... everything else that you mentioned does. I hate when authors throw in a physical trait like that in the very end! Because you totally have them already created in your mind by then, and it's like this huge letdown. :/

    Also, the romance sounds terrible. If both the characters were flat and well... (for lack of a better word) stupid, why should their even be a romance? Even a half-way type romance. I mean, come on. And the ending? Standalone with a bad ending? Count me out! So sorry that this book didn't work for you... the sad thing is, that I was kind of interested in this... but now I'm not. LOL. Thanks for the honest review! <3

  4. Hey there (: I know this is a bit of an older review, but I just wanted to say I really liked this review! Like you, the one character that I assumed to be white wasn't. I felt a lack of character development as well, but I actually really enjoyed this book. And just to let you know, there is in fact a sequel to this book coming out on August 26, 2014 so hopefully a lot of questions will be answered in the second book (: