Fourteen years after the First Night of the zombie apocalypse, humanity is reduced to scattered towns protected by fences and bounty hunters. At age fifteen, Benny Imura must find a job or have his rations cut in half, and after failing to find any other work, he is forced to join his stuffy older brother Tom as a zombie hunter. Benny is unimpressed by his brother’s tedious approach to training and aversion to violence, especially in comparison to the more adventurous hunters who are town heroes– but after firsthand experience of the “Rot and Ruin” outside the town gates he starts to see the undead in a different way.
I was impressed with the way the author balanced action and worldbuilding (it is a zombie apocalypse story) with the stories and motivations of the human characters. The reader, like Benny, learns that fighting the undead isn’t a heroic adventure or a video game-like massacre, but a duty of euthanizing infected people who are survived by their grieving families and friends. The book also explores how less compassionate characters deal with the task– maiming zombies to take their limbs as trophies, fighting them against each other, and even setting up illegal games where participants can win money by surviving a zombie pit.
Another plot thread deals with Benny learning about his parents’ deaths on First Night, of which he has few memories. The surviving humans’ society seems like a realistic response to their apocalyptic situation: in it, they find art, celebrity, job opportunities, and moral conundrums.
I recommend Rot and Ruin to anyone 12 and up (for violence mostly) who likes futuristic books, action, and suspense.
-Miranda C., 12th grade