My Rotten Life (Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie) by David Lubar"My best friend and I used to have contests where we'd try to gross each other out. We don't bother with that anymore. I can win every time, even when I'm not trying." Nathan Abercrombie, back cover.
ZPAA rating8 years old and up.
Gore level2 out of 10--The boy loses a finger but finds it again, reattaches it, and is able to move it when detached; one big barfing scene; passing gas more than once.
Other offensive contentBullying; belittling; tricks for not eating food; lies between friends.
How much zombie mythology/contentNathan is a chemically-induced zombie who slowly turns while still alive and he's conscious of the transformation. He quickly discovers that he doesn't need to eat food and that he can lose body parts without even noticing. He can't experience pain but is fully in control of his body, even when a part isn't attached to him.
How much funThe book is an enjoyable read. Nathan has a comic relief sidekick who has a lot of fifth-grade one liners that may make you smile or may make you groan. I did a bit of both. Also, there are a bunch of in-jokes for horror/suspense fans.
Synopsis & ReviewNathan Abercrombie is a fifth grader who belongs to a special clique: the second besters. See, it's cool to be a jock or a brain at school (at the top of the social pyramid) or the fattest, skinniest, oddest (at the bottom of the social pyramid). What if you don't excel in desirable or undesirable qualities? Then nobody knows who you are.
Which doesn't mean you still can't be crushed by the cruelty of fifth grade life. Nathan has what he thinks is his worst day ever when Shawna, the girl he's had a crush on since third grade, rubs his nose in the fact that he isn't invited to her Halloween party. If that wasn't enough, he then gets picked last at gym class. To heap on the humiliation, he then plays someone else's portable game, Zombie Invasion, and loses immediately resulting in howling laughter from his classmate. After this triple crown of thorns, could things possibly get worse?
Cue the quiet yet nerdy classmate Abigail who might have a solution for his problem. She and her uncle have been working on a secret formula called Hurt-Be-Gone that will (as you might imagine) take the pain away. The problem is, in true horror fashion, he gets a massive overdose that starts slowly turning him into a zombie. Will being a zombie hurt or help Nathan's social standing in school? Will they be able to get the ingredients for a cure before he becomes a complete zombie?
The story plays out in interesting and creative ways. Plot twists are sometimes unsurprising but other times are unexpected. Plenty of in-jokes are found in the book, e.g. the local community college is called Romero Community College, after George A. Romero, director of the classic Night of the Living Dead and many other zombie movies. The book is an enjoyable, quick read with sympathetic and imperfect characters that make the reader want to come back for more. To that end, the first chapter of the second book is included. I just got the second book from the library and can't wait to start.
Also a study guide is included at the end for further thought and discussion about the book.
Sample TextNarrator Nathan and his pal Mookie escape an aquarium and discuss the future (page 90):
"Thanks," I said when he joined us. "You really saved me. I owe you one."
"Just keep that in mind when you become mindless and get an urge to eat brains."
"I'm not going to eat brains!" I shouted.
"I've got two kidneys," Mookie said. "I guess you could have one of those. But not my liver. I'm pretty sure I only have one. You probably wouldn't want it, anyhow. I'll bet even zombies don't eat liver."