by Charlie Higson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Enemy / 978-1-423-14504-2
I'm a big fan of zombie lit, and have read quite a lot of what's out there, but I can honestly say that "The Enemy" scared me far more than most anything else I've read.
"The Enemy" starts hard and fast by plopping us in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, as a rag-tag band of kids struggle to survive against the infected grown-ups. We rapidly learn that some time ago, everyone over about sixteen became incredibly sick and eventually started shambling around killing and eating the uninfected children. The children that have survived thus far have banded together into small, tightly-knit tribal groups, struggling to eke out some semblance of survival. Without any adults to guide them, the children hover between disaster-induced maturity and touching youthful naivete, as the older of the children try to look out for the smallest and youngest in the groups.
Part of what makes "The Enemy" so frightening is that the reader is frequently and harrowingly terrified for the young protagonists. Author Higson does a wonderful job of characterizing the many children that fill the pages of this excellent novel - the point of view switches frequently between the children, and each child is fleshed out thoroughly and realistically. The children are attuned enough to the realities of the situation to allow the reader to identify with and care for them, but they still make enough foolish mistakes to retain their childlike status in the eyes of the reader. And once the reader becomes intimately familiar with all the characters, and grows to like them, the dangers of Anyone Can Die really hit home - this is not a book where battles feel bland and anti-climactic because you *know* none of your favorite characters will get offed.
I really cannot rave enough about the wonderful writing here - everything from the world-building to the characterization to the point-of-view switches is done remarkably well. The switches between the characters always flow naturally and never feel forced or clunky or cheap. The children are often delightfully Genre Savvy, as you would naturally expect urban children familiar with zombie lore to be, but always remain ultimately vulnerable, particularly as things get worse and the younger children are forced to confront the horrors of this new world. And the world building is done so well that I started to become deeply concerned about the fate of the older children - is the danger of infection over for them or are they inexorably doomed like their parents?
If you like zombie books even a little bit, then you will love "The Enemy". I'm not 100% certain about the age target audience - personally, I found this book to be terrifying, and I'm an *adult*, but probably older kids can handle it as a solid horror/adventure story written from their perspective. While there is no sexual content, there is quite a bit of horror and violence, obviously, so do keep that in mind when shopping.
~ Ana Mardoll
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