The Dead, by Charlie Higson

19 Mar

2011, Hyperion, ISBN 978-1423134121

Plot Summary: The second in Charlie Higson’s Enemy series, The Dead is a prequel of sorts to Enemy. The story takes place in London as a worldwide disease outbreak affects people age 16 and over that causes them to attack and consume anyone younger.

The Dead follows a group of students at an English boarding school at the onset of the disease and their journey to find a safer haven. Best friends Jack and Ed swear to stick together, but Jack is frustrated with Ed’s seeming impulse to panic and flee rather than engage.

The group of boys escape the school, liberating other students, including one, Matthew, who now believes that he is God’s messenger. The boys find temporary salvation Greg, a butcher from the countryside, pulls up in a school bus and saves them from an adult attack. He’s traveling with his young son, Liam, and a group of schoolgirls, but Jack sees his erratic behavior and realizes that Greg is sick, too. The group makes their way to the Imperial War Museum in London, meeting a group of boys already living there; they plan to evacuate as a fire engulfing London is closing in and the adults are coming closer. Some of the boys board an abandoned grocery truck and some board a sightseeing boat and head for Tower Bridge and South London, with the intention of meeting at the Tower of London.

Critical Evaluation: The Dead will keep teens turning pages. A fast-paced horror novel, Mr. Higson creates characters with just enough background to give them some dimension, and forms solid relationships between the characters – relationships that readers will relate to. He creates a wide range of characters, including the get-it-done Jack, the cowardly Kwanele, who decides to avoid the reality of their situation by focusing solely on his wardrobe, the bookish Chris, who believes that in order to rebuild society, he needs to save books, and Ed, whose character growth frames the novel as he goes from scared to fierce. The older teens protect the younger boys even as they tease them. The girls are portrayed as boys would see them – shrieking, obnoxious, but oddly attractive at the same time. Boy readers in particular will relate to this range of characters and the fast-paced action.

Reviews: Kirkus Reviews: “With giant firestorms, rampaging hoards and continual life-and-death scenarios, though, Higson delivers an action-packed summer read.”

The Guardian (UK): “Clever . . . fast-paced . . . inventive.”

School Library Journal: “…the author does a fine job distinguishing his myriad characters and giving them their particular motivations, going so far as to present the viewpoints of some of the diseased… this action-packed tale ought to have a wide audience.”

Awards: Shortlisted for the Independent Booksellers Book Award (2011).

Reader’s Annotation: A zombie-like plague is ravaging London. Anyone under 16 is a target. What happens in a world where the adults have turned on the kids?

Author Information: Author Charlie Higson’s website offers information about Mr. Higson’s books, book trailers, his schedule, contact information, and television appearances.

Genre: Horror. Subgenre: Post-apocalyptic.

Booktalking IdeasA zombie plague attacks anyone over 16, turning them on younger kids. A handful of students in a London boarding school band together to stay alive. With all of the different personalities thrown together, what do you think it must be like, trying to survive? Is getting along a priority? Could you protect someone you didn’t like, if you were among the last people on earth?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 13-17.

Challenge Issues/Defense: Violence. Defense: This is a horror novel.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

My 12-year old son told me that this would be one of the best novels I’d ever read, and being a  horror/zombie fan, I was intrigued. Zombies are becoming hugely popular in pop culture now, and I thought it would be a good addition to my teen list.

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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Horror


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