Monday, April 29, 2013

How NOT to Train a Zombie by Annie Rachel Cole

Title: How NOT to Train a Zombie
Author: Annie Rachel Cole
Format: Paperback, 182 pages
Pub. Date: February 10th 2013
Source: Word Spelunking blog

One star.

The science fair is coming up, and for eight grader Max that means one thing- a chance to become one of the most popular kids in school. The catch? Well.... He's going to have to break at least a dozen rules and laws. But in the end it'll be worth it, if he can just catch and train a zombie... Won't it?


As with most zombie books, I was hoping that this would be the one to turn me. I thought that by maybe going towards a middle grade age, I would find the zombie genre cuter and more endearing. Unfortunately, my streak of bad zombie books continues. This book is written like an episode of Scooby-Doo... If Shaggy wasn't a cowardly lovable character.

-The lead character, Max, is a jerk. And he continues to be throughout the entire course of the book. It starts with him trying to peer pressure his best friend Chad into doing something against the law- catching a zombie and keeping it in his home. Max somehow paints Chad into the bad guy, even though he stood up for his morals and said that being popular wasn't everything, and that Max should just be himself. Then there's the fact that he hates on his mom for seemingly no reason. He's embarrassed to the point of anger because she.... Gardens? Not drugs, not stripping. But gardening. What?. Then, not unlike Golum from the Lord of the Rings, he becomes obsessed with obtaining a zombie. So, he decides to partner up with the class geek, since his dad is a certified zombie catcher. Eddy, the geek, makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with zombies, and yet Max emotionally manipulates him by using his dead mother into doing things that will only benefit Max. Time goes by, and a zombie is eventually obtained. Even when the geek agrees to help Max despite their falling out Max is still rude and insulting. Let the zombies get him, I say.

-Stemming off of that, this book isn't very believable. And yes, I am saying that about a zombie book. But the surrealism has naught to do with the undead, but the living. Max is supposedly this bottom of the totem pole level of popularity. Yet, when the bully (using gay jokes, naturally) starts trouble with him, he smarts off. Not only that, but he smarts off and then doesn't get his butt kicked..... If he's such a weenie, he wouldn't have been so, forgive my language, ballsy. And even if he was, the bully would have NO DOUBT found him. No convenient distractions or anything. Bullies fight. That's what they do. And then there's his mother's involvement with his friendships. My mother never questioned me when I stopped hanging out with people, just when I started hanging out with new ones.

-This book, ultimately, had a negative tone to it throughout. Max is a jerk, his best friend is somehow portrayed as one, his mom is portrayed as one, Eddy is snippy, and his dad is a villain out of no where (who actually uses the phrase "meddling brats"). It all seemed a bit thrown together and dark, with no major happy resolve...

-Unless you count the epilogue, which I do not, since it was essentially just a few pages to connect loose ends that weren't handled in the actual plot.

-+There's a few grammatical errors in the text, but it wasn't enough to deter from the story.

+Despite my issues with this story, I did like that each chapter started with a Texas state law or public service announcement regarding the dangers of zombies and the consequences of interacting with them. It gave a clear insight into the type of society this book is set in, and how much trouble Max was going to be in if he got caught.

Maybe I'm just a cynical old person now who can't appreciate kid's literature. However, I couldn't get past Max's insufferable-ness, and it disconnected me from the majority of the book. If I were to recommend this, it would be to kids/young adults in junior high, namely boys. I appreciate the concept of this story, but for me it just fell flat.

Thank you to Word Spelunking blog and the author for my copy.


  1. I'm pretty neutral with zombies, I don't love them and I don't hate them, but this doesn't sound like the right zombie book for me. Although I'd be interested in reading the laws at the beginning of the chapters, that sounds interesting.

  2. It reminds me of the woman's voice in Repo! The Genetic Opera.