Why I Read It: This book caught my eye ever since it’s initial release, but I was a little tired of zombies at the time. Yet it’s got a cover that once you see it, you don’t forget it, and when I sampled it on my Kindle once upon a time ago, I enjoyed what I read. It was easy to add it to August’s Theme Park Book Club poll for Kick-Assitude, and I was delighted when it won the vote. I wanted something easy, breezy, and fun, yet with a heroine that stood out. Let’s see how we did!
The premise: ganked from Amazon.com: Teenage delinquent Angel Crawford lives with her redneck father in the swamps of southern Louisiana. She’s a high school dropout, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and has a police record a mile long. But when she’s made into a zombie after a car crash, her addictions disappear, except for her all-consuming need to stay “alive”…
Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yay. As with all book club selections, there will be spoilers, so if you’re trying to avoid them, just skip to “My Rating” and you’ll be in good shape. Everyone else, onward!
Discussion: It’s a funny synchronicity. It read this after reading Unholy Magic, and it’s strange that I should find myself reading two urban fantasies in a row that feature drug-addict heroines. Between that and rough childhoods, one can make some interesting comparisons between Chess Putnam and White Trash‘s Angel Crawford, but the similarities really end there. No, White Trash is not the fun, bubble-gum pop-py book the cover implies. I expected raw humor and a lightness to the tone, but really, while no where near as dark as Stacia Kane’s series, this book isn’t exactly a light-hearted picnic, despite being a fun read.
For starters, there’s the whole BRAINS thing to deal with. I was rather amused that Rowland’s zombie-ism functioned a lot like vampirism. At least, I was amused once I got over the various creative and blunt ways Angel consumed brains. The first, the energy drink that had a texture like tapioca? OMG. That alone was so descriptive that I was wincing while reading, but in a good way.
And we did get humor, don’t get me wrong. I loved Angel’s initial meeting with Nick, and her reactions to him.
I didn’t shrug this time, but his jaw tightened a bit as if he was annoyed that I wasn’t displaying the proper amazement at his accomplishment.
I loved her interactions with Derrel, who we’re introduced as a guy who:
…consistently referred to Nick as an “over-privileged cocky bastard” which pretty much made him my hero, despite the fact he was disgustingly cheerful at five in the morning.
Humor also comes in the form of brains… or at least some of the light-hearted tone. I loved the various creative ways Rowland thought of for Angel and other zombies to eat brains, various recipes and states (like frozen or liquid). And even the moments when she’s really HUNGRY and starts seeing people as potential meals? Morbid, sure, but also kind of funny, because it makes sense considering she’s a zombie. The light, casual, modern tone was fun too. I wrote, I kid you not, as a note: “Fun, super-casual read but nothing meaty. Har har.” Well I did write that, but not with the spiffy punctuation, because when typing on my Kindle, I’m super-sloppy. Anyway, that note was attributed to this quip in the narrative:
Usually you had to be there for three months before you could get any type of paid leave. And what was I supposed to say? “Gee, thanks for giving me paid time off, but that’s not why I need to come to work. I need to dig through dead bodies ’cause I’m starving, yo.”
Or the joke that Kang told her:
“It reminds me of an old joke: What did the zombie say to the whore?”
I looked at him blankly. “Um… what?”
He winked. “Keep the tip.”
What’s really cute (yes, you can get cute going from that kind of humor) is how that joke plays into the final beat of the book. Well done.
Randomly, despite being the jerk of the office, I love how Nick shows he’s a good guy in various points during the story. I’m not shipping him and Angel or anything, but his gestures were good-guy sweet. The kind of guy you’d want on your side, especially as a friend.
But then there’s the “white trash” portion of her character. Pre-zombie, she was a drug addict with an alcoholic father, a deadbeat boyfriend, and a girl who couldn’t and wouldn’t hold down a job. The scenes with the boyfriend only vaguely worried me, like when I picked up on his interest in all the meds that were processed and then thrown away from a crime scene. And the drug thing is something you know won’t last, because it doesn’t take long for the reader, and then Angel, to realize drugs and alcohol have no affect on her any more, so there’s no point. Of course, I do love the clever way that brains suddenly substitute for a drug, because in their own way, brains are an addiction. Of course, it’s an addiction in the same way that FOOD is an addiction, but I think Rowland was trying to make a more direct drug parallel here.
Where it gets serious and real, and tragic and sad, is Angel’s relationship with her father. It tore me up, because it felt realistic (not from my own personal experience, mind you; it just really rang true). I loved how Angel was conflicted, because she loves her dad, but doesn’t want to see him destroy himself nor does she want to be a victim. I was honestly frightened for her when he found her brain smoothie stash, because while there’s no way he could figure out what she is (because seriously, how would anyone even remotely come up with that explanation?), the tension in that scene was beyond intense. I worry more about Angel in terms of her father than I did during the climax when the zombie-hunter was revealed, you know? And her dad’s confession at the end, realizing that maybe he should’ve never been a dad? That’s powerful stuff. Almost taboo stuff, because while it’s easy for people to point to others and say those others shouldn’t reproduce, it’s another to hear someone admit it about themselves after they’re already parent. It’s not a notion that’d be warmly embraced by this family-friendly nation of ours, so those tensions really got to me.
My Rating: 7 – Good Read
This book was definitely fast-paced with a quippy heroine who alternately had be chuckling and sometimes rolling my eyes (but in an affectionate way). I loved the creativity that went behind making a urban fantasy heroine who’s a zombie, because zombies don’t immediately lend themselves to leading roles that have the potential for romance, you know? But it was a lot of fun to enjoy all the world-building involved, and Rowland kept me guessing as to who turned Angel and why, so the revelation was an enjoyable surprise. The book does have some gross-out moments, and it has some darker moments that really deepen Angel’s characterization. But the book definitely fit the book club theme of Kick-Assitude, and when I have a slot, I could easily see myself picking up the sequel. It’s fun and enjoyable, but as I said before, the serious moments give it unexpected but enjoyable depth. At any rate, fans of urban fantasy should give this a shot for its creativity and fun, even if you’re burnt out on zombies, because believe me: these aren’t your typical zombies.
Cover Commentary: It looks utterly girly, doesn’t it? I’ve heard of several readers who’ve avoided this book because it looked too girly for them. I suppose “too girly” in this case means pink, and yes, there’s plenty of it. In truth, when it comes to matching the cover with the contents of the book, the sequel’s cover does a far better job. Because the cover we get, while I love it: it’s utterly eye-catching and you don’t forget it, implies a light-hearted, fun romp with a zombie. Not so much. I’m not saying this is a SUPER-SERIOUS book, but it’s anything but girly. Hell, there’s hardly a romance at all in this story, so the pink doesn’t mean romance. So if you’re a guy, or a hater of the color pink, just get over the cover if you’re interested in the book and read it already. And if it makes you feel better, download it to the Kindle, and then you won’t see what color the cover is anyway!