Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: R

Taking a short break from school-related texts, I spent the long weekend (Gee I love living in Alberta!) checking out the Young Adult (YA) novel Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Going into the book here is what I knew – it was supposed to be some sort of zombie love story, it is being turned into a film that will be released in 2013, and it is clearly being marketed as something of interest for fans of the Twilight books and film franchise. Now you know why I might not have been excited to check it out.

On the positive side, I’d already had a really great experience of Zombie-themed YA fiction in Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, so I knew the topic could be covered in an effective way for younger readers and as I spend each day looking at my zombie calendar whenever I want to remember the date, I’ve had zombies on my brain (pun intended). But after reading the book I’ve got to say it’s success comes down to its main character, and our genre character of the week, R.

Structured in a lot of ways like YA animal based fiction (think The Incredible Journey or Warhorse), the novel is narrated and told from the point of view of a zombie named R. Like all zombies he can no longer remember his name, but the initial has stuck, although he doesn’t speak, it is through his strangely eloquent prose that we see a zombie apocalypse from the other side.

R’s world is a grim one indeed, but he does have occasional flashes of memory, hints of what his life may have been before. One thing I loved about the book is that as we are seeing everything through his eyes, we don’t actually know how old he is, he could be anywhere from a teen through to a man in his fifties so the character is easy to empathize with from my 35-year-old point of view. In a way it’ll be a shame that his age and appearance will be locked down in the upcoming film to that of 22-year-old actor Nicholas Hoult (who I liked in X-Men First Class and loved in the BBC series Skins) as it may distance the emotional connection for older readers like me.

The strange thing about zombies has often been how much they look like us, and sometimes even act like us, when it is also clear that there really isn’t anyone home, just echoes of a previous existence. R made me think differently about that – and that’s about the best comment I can make about the character and the book.

Definitely worth checking out.

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