Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry
**** 458 pages Hardcover Simon and Shuster
I don't generally read YA novels but I am aware that there have been a lot of darker novels geared toward teens, so I intend to check a few more after dipping my toe in this pond. I assume this is not the first YA zombie novel but it is the first one read by this reviewer. I think this is an important title for YA librarians to get their hands on. It is a coming of age novel, and works on that level, but of course its main narrative follows the traditional zombie tropes.
It is a very well written novel that doesn't condescend to its young target audience. I bet Mayberry was reading Stephen King as young adult like many of us horror fans. It has some violence and gore but the language is clean and the romance is very innocent. Sometimes Mayberry doesn’t give enough credit to the young readers by over explaining the conflicts involved. The story is centered on Benny Imura a zombie apocalypse survivor living in a small fenced off village. His whole young life has been since 'First Night' when society collapsed. His parents are dead and he has been raised by his brother a Zombie bounty hunter named Tom.
The interesting and originals aspects of the novel come mostly from big brother Tom, who is a hero to most but nothing special to Benny. In this village at age fifteen your rations get cut if you don't work, and Benny can't find a job. The conflict starts when Benny relents and starts training under his brother to hunt zombies. Tom gets paid a bounty to find loved ones who are zombies and respectfully end the misery. Once out beyond the fence in the Rot & Ruin Benny realizes things are not exactly the way he always believed.
Rot & Ruin is my second Mayberry novel and both were zombie novels. Patient Zero is a fantastic hard boiled techo-thriller zombie novel that I really enjoyed. I knew Mayberry was an excellent story teller so I expected this novel to be good. Knowing the levels of intense storytelling Mayberry pulled off in PZ I found this novel to be stripped down to very basics. Still there are plenty of original ideas, and plot twists. I think this novel is very good, but more recommended for its young targeted audience. I think more sophisticated horror readers will enjoy Patient Zero more.