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Zombie
     

Zombie

2.7 8
by J.R. Angelella
 

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A zombie movie-obsessed teen is forced to face a dark family secret in this shocking debut literary novel from a talented new author.  

"Wow! A crazy, wicked knock-out of a book!" -Garth Stein

Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker attends an all-boys Catholic high school where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee

Overview

A zombie movie-obsessed teen is forced to face a dark family secret in this shocking debut literary novel from a talented new author.  

"Wow! A crazy, wicked knock-out of a book!" -Garth Stein

Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker attends an all-boys Catholic high school where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father disappears night after night without explanation. Jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from the zombie movies he's obsessed with: Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead among others.

The code is put to the test when he discovers in his father's closet a bizarre homemade video of a man strapped to a bed, being prepped for some sort of surgical procedure. As Jeremy attempts to trace the origin of the video, this remarkable debut moves from its sharp, precocious beginnings to a climax of almost unthinkable violence, testing him, and the reader, to the core.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jeremy Barker, a freshman at the Byron Hall Catholic High School for Boys in Baltimore, is obsessed with zombies, peppering references to his favorite zombie films throughout. Jeremy calls Byron Hall “prime zombie real estate” in part because of its ominous habitués, like eight-fingered teacher Mr. Rembrandt and fellow students Dirtbag Boy, Super Shy Kid, and the Plaids. Though rather prickly as a narrator, Jeremy is treated by the world as merely hapless. He lives by a zombie code, which includes “#3. Forget the Past,” a rule that grows in importance as Jeremy’s recently divorced parents begin behaving strangely. His Vietnam vet dad stays out all night, mysteriously. His mom has a new boyfriend and a pill habit. And his older brother is a sex addict. Will Jeremy go for the college girl he spies on through her window, or find love with his dream girl from Byron Hall’s sister school? Though Angelella’s debut novel crackles with energy and attitude, the plot is less compelling or coherent than it could be, and his whining 14-year-old hero may rub some readers the wrong way. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (June)
From the Publisher
"Zombie will make you laugh, shake your head in recognition, and go for the aluminum bat in your basement."
Ned Vizzini, author of It's Kind of a Funny Story

"Wow!  A crazy, wicked, knock-out of a book!"
Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“ It’s simultaneously a bildungsroman à la Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, an homage to zombies in pop culture, and a twisted mystery all wrapped up into one utterly original – and darkly delightful – novel.”
BN.com

"A brass-knuckle book, reminiscent in tone to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club.... A great choice for readers who are excited by stories with offbeat characters."
—School Library Journal

Zombie is one of the smartest, strangest, and most beautifully crafted coming-of-age stories you will ever encounter.”
Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time

"Angelella’s debut novel crackles with energy and attitude."
Publishers Weekly

“An irreverent and twisted coming-of-age story with one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever read.”
Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook

“If you want to know how teenagers feel and what they say when adults aren’t around, Zombie–a funny and very authentic, well-written first novel by J. R. Angelella–should definitely be the next book you read.”
John Waters, author of Role Models, and director of Hairspray and Pink Flamingos.

"Your home life's an apocalypse, school's the plague, and you're growing up in a wasteland. To survive this zombie movie of a life is probably going to take more than you've got. But a world where the dead walk is also a world with miracles. Have faith. Read this book."
Stephen Graham Jones, author of Growing Up Dead in Texas

“Barker is clearly a spiritual successor to Salinger’s Holden Caulfield.... I haven’t finished a book this quickly since I first read American Psycho.”
—The Lit Pub

"Zombie basically starts at 10 mph and ends at 100.... The book got better and better as I read."
Hello Giggles

"A coming-of-age tale--angry and violent but full of heart--with stellar prose, first-rate dialogue and a cinematic eye for detail."
Shelf Awareness

“Zombie is fierce, brave and entertaining literature.”
Opinionless Reviews

"A superb debut."
—Zouch Magazine

"Dark and unforgettable."
—Horror News Net

“Overall, Zombie may be a weird book but it has something to say. It deals with relevant and relatable issues, it has interesting and likable characters, it is humorous, and it subtly underscores flaws in society.”
Book Stoner

"You won’t forget these characters, or the Zombie Survival Code quickly."
Bookshelf Bombshells

"When it starts to slip into David Lynch territory, I was absolutely mesmerized...The final act is gruesome and cathartic, smart and gripping. I would recommend this book to anyone. This is easily one on of the most entertaining novels I've read in years."
The Blog of the Living Dead

Library Journal
Jeremy Barker, 14, lives his life based on a code culled from his favorite zombie movies. This mental preparation allows him to cope with his real-world problems, like life at an all-boy Catholic high school, girls, and his parents' separation. When a dark secret that his father has been harboring comes to light, Jeremy tries to comprehend actual horrors, for which all the zombie movies in the world couldn't prepare him. This debut novel tries to walk a narrow tightrope as a bildungsroman that goes to very dark places. There are a number of potentially compelling characters, all of whom could have been protagonists of their own novels; however, the author crams in too many and does not have the space to develop most beyond a collection of quirks. VERDICT In addition to underdeveloped characters, the narrative bogs down under its own weight before picking up the tempo for a breakneck finale. Despite the lack of actual undead, fans of zombie movies and literature will enjoy Jeremy as a protagonist and appreciate the attention that the author lavishes on the genre.—Pete Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA
Kirkus Reviews
Angelella creates a weird brew here, featuring an eight-fingered priest, pill and sex addicts, cultish rituals and the Byron Hall Catholic High School for Boys. Narrator Jeremy Barker is beginning his freshman year at Byron Hall, and it's fair to say he's obsessed with Zombie films. He can rattle off his Ten Best like nobody's business, and he's even created a personal code of conduct derived from his obsession (e.g., Avoid Eye Contact, Keep Quiet, Fight to Survive). In fact, the novel is so zombie-drenched that the titles of his favorite movies serve as chapter titles as well (the one exception being The Greatest Story Ever Told, which a priest has hooked Jeremy into by suggesting that Lazarus and Jesus might be the first zombies ever—think about it). Jeremy's home life is, to put it charitably, disordered, for his mother is addicted to pills (though she offers up a prayer before partaking), his older brother is addicted to sex, and his father turns most of their conversations into uncomfortable sexual innuendo. Jeremy's only love comes from his dog, whom Angelella, with irritating cuteness, names "Dog." Although Jeremy voyeuristically checks out his neighbor, a college student, and falls for Aimee, a student director at the local girls' Catholic school, his main preoccupation is figuring out what his father is up to, for Jeremy gets evidence that he's colluding with Mr. Rembrandt, an eight-fingered priest who just happens to be Jeremy's English teacher. All of the weirdness adds up to not very much, and Angelella has an irksome habit of nudging the reader in the ribs with his wit and cleverness.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616950880
Publisher:
Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Pages:
342
Sales rank:
719,099
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

1

According to my father, there are three types of necktie knots: the
Windsor, the Half-Windsor, and the Limp Dick.

“Jeremy, I’d bet my hand,” he says, adjusting his seatbelt, “that every swinging dick at Byron Hall wears the Windsor.”

“Could you not talk about dicks first thing in the morning?”

“The ladies love masculine things,” he says, pinching his silver tie at the base of its knot.

“Dad, it’s an all guy high school.”

“It’s the principle of the thing.”

“What is?”

“The size of a man’s knot. His bastion of strength.”

“Don’t say bastion of strength. Gross,” I say, shivering.

“It’s true,” he says. “Fact. Proven.” Dad turns, facing me, and exposes the flauntingly fat Windsor knot of his silver tie.

Welcome to Necktie 101. I will be your professor today.

According to Ballentine Barker, in order to make a Windsor,
you must cross the long, fat end over the short, skinny one; double loop through the cross-over; make a tunnel over the loops;
and funnel it through. The Windsor usually makes you look like a fuckwad.

What is that Bible story about the whale and Jonah? Or is his name Jonas? And Jonah is swallowed whole by some gigantic whale for whatever reason—I don’t know—and Jonah lives inside the whale? And then the whale spits him out. Or is it that he swims out? Or is it that he gets blown out through the blowhole? Or does he die inside the whale? Am I thinking of Moby Dick?

We pass a sign on the side of the road that reads Baltimore: The
Greatest City in America. Get in on it.

“When they say that—get in on it—what do they mean?” I ask.

“That Baltimore is a secret not many people know about,” Dad says.

“A secret?”

Get in on it. Be one of the people in the know. Be in on the secret. A part of the club.”

“What secret? What club?”

“It’s like referring to Baltimore as Charm City. The name creates a buzz where no buzz is buzzing.”

“Buzzing?” I ask.

Dad says, “You ask too many questions.”

Jackson used to call Baltimore by a bunch of different names.
B-town. Charm City. Crabtown. City of Firsts. Monument City. Mob
Town. Murderland.
He’d say them mainly to impress girls. They’d stop by the house in the evenings. Groups of them. Whore-ds of them. Get it? Whore-ds of them? And ask if he was home. They would travel from far away. Randallstown. Ellicott City. Columbia.
Westminster. Cockeysville. Perry Hall. Take 81 South to Cold
Spring Lane or I95 to Russell Street past M&T Bank Stadium.
Travel just to see him. They’d stink of perfume, wearing short skirts,
tight tops, big hair, lipstick-red lips. Jackson would emerge from his room, sometimes wearing only a robe, and descend down the stairs like some Casanova Fuck. “Welcome,” he’d say, “to the City of Firsts.”

What an ooze.

We drive past a middle-aged woman speed walking in pink
Spandex shorts and a black tank top. She has medium boobs, her butt cheeks shifting back and forth with each step. The Spandex cups her ass and hips such that she might as well be wearing underwear.
I immediately feel guilty, like I just lied to a priest. I think about her tits. Amazing.

Dad taps his horn. “Ballentine likes what he sees,” he says. Dad refers to himself in third person from time-to-time, including on his voicemail messages. I am constantly reminded where Jackson gets his ooziness. “A little beep-beep now and again keeps them feeling young, son. Lets them know they still got it.”

“Do you think she has kids?” I ask.

“Not all mothers are your mother,” he says.

I’m surprised Dad mentions Mom at all, especially on the first day of school as it always used to be her day. She would get up early,
make a big breakfast of pancakes and eggs and strawberry milk.
After, she’d pose me on the front steps of our house for the annual first day of school photo. She kept the photos framed in a collage on the wall, reaching all the way back to my first day of pre-school.
There’s a black rectangle on the wall where the collage used to hang. Today there was no first day of school photo. Today there was no breakfast or strawberry milk. I wonder where those framed photos are now.

“Your mother is not here, Jeremy,” Dad says. “I am.” Dad’s car drifts into the other lane, crossing briefly over the double yellow lines before weaving around a garbage truck. “The size of a man’s knot,” Dad continues, “indicates his massiveness.”

“Massiveness? Oh, Jesus.”

“Language.”

“Dad, seriously.”

“Listen. You need to hear this: Windsor equals monster. Half-
Windsor equals babyshit.”

“Babyshit?”

“Babyshit.”

Allow me to professor your ass with some Half-Windsor knowledge.

The Half-Windsor folds like a paper football, easy with perfect angles. Personally, I think it’s the best knot. It’s easier than the Windsor because you only make one loop over the cross-over instead of two. But getting the length right takes skill, practice, and a sense of pride. Where the Windsor, more often than not, gives you a stumpy bitch length, the Half-Windsor—if you get it right—hangs sexy and perfect right to the tip of your belt. That triangular tip of the tie skimming a silver belt buckle. It’s badass. Totally badass. But I
haven’t figured out how to tie it perfectly yet.

We drive past a private golf course—some members only club surrounded in a super high fence to keep the wrong kind of people out. There is a valley in the road, then a hill, which Dad accelerates through, and as we reach the peak, I see Byron Hall in the distance.

Dad says, “Survival scenario—you’re in school. English. Zombies crash through the windows. Unstoppable. Sick. Savage. Your school is under siege. It’s a zombie apocalypse.”

“Crashing?” I ask.

He loosens his grip on the steering wheel, his fingers spread open and relaxed. “Crashing.”

“I’m in English class and zombies are crashing through the windows?”

Dad coasts down a straightaway of red brick houses with long driveways. A man wearing a cowboy hat and mirrored sunglasses navigates a wheelchair down his driveway to the street and slides envelopes inside a mailbox. Dad rides the brake, cutting our speed down quick, and looks over his shoulder as we pass, watching the man spin and roll away from the street, retreating in his wheelchair,
completely legless.

“Dad, you said zombies were crashing through the windows of my English class?”

“Right—crashing. They’re crashing.”

“Through the windows. A zombie apocalypse, you said.”

“What is your weapon and what is your escape plan?” He looks at me longer than anyone driving should. “And no Minigun either.
You always say Minigun. Use another movie other than Planet Terror
as an example. Think outside the box.”

Stopped at a red light, I see the Byron Hall campus up across from a strip mall, just like the one in Dawn of the Dead. His turn signal clicks.

“Break the glass of one of those emergency panels with my elbow, grab the axe, and chop my way across the street to the mall.”
I chop my arm from the school across the street to the mall. “Hold up there. Last-stand style. Barricade the doors with bike locks from a sporting good store and wait for the cavalry to come. I’d grab a few extra things—blowtorch, propane tank. If I have to make a bomb. Blow some shit up. What about you?” I ask.

“You couldn’t pay me to go back to high school,” he says.

We pass an empty football field with metal bleachers and two yellow wishbone goalposts. Dad pulls in behind a long line of cars,
waiting to turn into the entrance. The sign out front reads: Byron
Hall Catholic High School for Boys
. We jerk to a stop at the top of the circle where two Christian Brothers greet students as they enter.
The Brothers wear long black tunics that brush their shiny black shoes, although if memory serves me correct from when Jackson went here the Brothers have the options to wear the long black tunic, or all black suits like a priest or just rock the regular sport coat, button down shirt and tie. But not these Brothers. These
Brothers are old school. These Brothers look like hippie priests in their tunics. The Byron Hall mascot, an angry fighting blue jay,
stands with the Brothers waving his blue-feathered wings at people passing by. The blue bird is equal parts terrifying and gay.

“Well, here we are, son,” Dad says, palming the back of my head.

I knock his arm away. “You’re messing up my hair.”

He wipes his hand on a handkerchief. “It’s like a fucking grease pit up there.”

“Hair gel.” I lower the overhead visor to see the mirror, to fix the brown curls he ruffled out of place, the curls I rushed this morning to not make him late. I comb a few strands of hair back into a part and adjust my thin black tie. I aim my shoulders to the door, so he won’t see my knot.

“Look at you,” he says, poking me in the back. He drapes his arm over the wheel. “Barely a freshman and already primping like a Revlon girl.”

“Quit,” I say, slamming the car visor up. I grab my book bag and push open the door when his hand grabs me by my navy blue sports coat.

“I’ll quit,” he says. “Sure. If you turn around.”

“I’m late.”

“I’m your father.”

I know what he wants to see, but it’s his fault for rushing me this morning, goddamit.

“I’m really going to be late for homeroom. You’re going to make me late.” Dad’s words from my lips.

Dad smells like aftershave and coffee and bleach. He disappeared again last night. Showed up at the house early—scattered, paranoid,
rushed. Like always, Dad disappeared and no one knows anything about it. He thinks he’ll be able to keep it a secret. He thinks he will be able to scare people away, but I follow the Code—Zombie
Survival Code (ZSC)
. The ZSC is a list on how to survive a necroinfectious pandemic, otherwise known as a zombie apocalypse.
B-t-dubs, it should be noted, that I totally ripped the idea of survival rules off of Zombieland. Big holla to Jesse Eisenberg. I don’t know if I heard this somewhere or thought it up myself, but here is the deal—rules are meant to be broken, but codes are made to be followed.

Zombie Survival Code #1: Avoid Eye Contact (ZSC#1)
Zombie Survival Code #2: Keep Quiet (ZSC#2)
Zombie Survival Code #3: Forget the Past (ZSC#3)
Zombie Survival Code #4: Lock-and-Load (ZSC#4)
Zombie Survival Code #5: Fight to Survive (ZSC#5)

“I asked you to turn around,” he says. “Show me. Now.”

“You want me to miss first period?” ZSC#1: Avoid eye contact—
I look away.

“I want you to obey your father. It’s in the Bible. Now turn around.”

I’d been hiding the knot with my sports coat all morning. I refuse to answer and hope he let’s it go and leaves me alone—ZSC#2:
keep quiet. I thought I’d be able to get away with it. I know what he’s going to say but there’s no avoiding it, so I turn around.

“Limp Dick?” he asks, slapping his forehead. “Fuck me. That’s a
Limp Dick.”

Hey now, hey now—Prof Knot in the house.

The third and final knot—the Limp Dick—is self-explanatory.
The Limp Dick has no loop, but instead folds in an impulsive movement from the cross-over to the tunnel and funnels through,
dangling down limp-like. Self-explanatory. Limp Dick.

“Mom wouldn’t care about my knot,” I say

“You’re right. She wouldn’t. When’s the last time you saw her?”
Dad slips the car into drive, his foot still on the brake. He makes a fist and punches the dent in the dashboard in slow motion with a sound effect of an explosion on impact. “Jeremy. After school. You and me. Necktie refresher course.”

“You’re such a loser,” I say.

“I’m not the one rocking a Limp Dick,” he says.

“Dad,” I say, “where did you go last night?”

“Spent the night at Liza’s.” He smiles. “Don’t worry so much.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Yes, you do.” Then, raising his hands, he says, “Have a good day,
son.”

I raise mine too as our hands turn into fists and we bang them together like boxers tapping gloves before a fight.

2

The Byron Hall Catholic High School for Boys—nicknamed The
Hall—is made up of five hallways. There is no second floor. The school has not changed a lick since Jackson graduated four years ago.

On an aerial sketch of the school, like an architect’s layout, like the kind Mom used to spread out on the dining room table, The
Hall would look like the number eight on a solar-powered calculator.
Three mini horizontal hallways—one at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom of the school. Two long vertical hallways on the sides—one with even classroom numbers, one with odd. Each lined with lockers for 1300 students, lockers so skinny and tight they would barely hold a broom.

According to Jackson, the cafeteria is called the cafe and sits past the mini hallway at the top of the school. Jackson told me that
Dad said the cafe reminded him a lot of the Marine chow halls at
Fort Drum in New York where he was stationed before deployed to Vietnam. Simple room to describe, really—blue-jay-blue tiled walls; eggshell white, linoleum floors; long, boring, brown tables seating six evenly spaced across an L shape. A sign on the wall reads:
Fire Occupancy 585. I wonder what would happen if all 1300 kids had a free period at the same time.

When I got my course schedule and locker assignment a few weeks ago, Jackson volunteered to drive me up to his old stomping ground, a phrase he likes to use like some kind of old man. He escorted me around like some big dick hotshot, head held high,
walking with a swaggerly limp. He even got all dressed up—khaki pants, white button-down shirt, plaid sport coat with an all blue tie in a Windsor knot. Tool. It was nice, though, to get acquainted with the layout of the school, showing me all of the hallways, which were empty as fuck except for custodians pushing mops around and some people in the front office. No brothers. No students. He showed me my locker at the end of the even hallway near the cafe and had me practice the combo. He told me to always make sure my lock snapped shut. One of the things the upperclassmen like to do, apparently, is find someone’s lock undone and put it on backwards.
Before we left, he pointed to the vending machines in the corner of the cafe and said, “I fucked some girl once at a dance over by the vending machines. Fuck central.”

Great—fuck central.

At my locker, I look around and wait until I feel invisible. I
slip off my shoe, pull out a piece of paper, and read a small piece of paper with my combination and quickly apply the three numbers in perfect left-right-left order. The lock snaps open like a broken jaw. I slip the paper back inside my shoe and my shoe back on my foot and the lock back on the locker. I wonder if I’m the only student with a combination cheat sheet in his shoe and a back-up sheet in his bedroom. My backup is in my closet with my other secrets. I dump the contents of my book bag into my locker and pick out my books for the day. Western Civilization. Algebra.
Christian Awareness. English Literature. My locker rattles shut with a good kick. I twist a couple of times to scramble the combination.

I’ve already forgotten the numbers.

A Brother I haven’t seen yet—a small, Asian man, wearing a long black tunic and thick black hair slicked back—paces along the back of the cafe, his hands behind his back, watching the boys at the tables,
waiting for something to happen. I imagine him to be some kind of drill instructor, ready to scream at kids to get to class on time.

Outside of the cafe is an overhang with metal picnic benches where kids can chill and eat lunch and congregate like felons on the prison yard and tell stories that are most certainly all lies—stories that mainly consist of fucking girls and drugs and sometimes school work, but mostly fucking girls and drugs. They, the boys, the young men, they all look exactly the same, unified, like an army—
an academic siege!—with their neckties and wrinkled sports coats,
all crushed together, like a rat king. Then I hear what Jackson calls
the hotness—sweet, honey-like voices—slow and smooth and sexy.
Baby, are they sexy.

A group of four girls in short plaid skirts and white short sleeve,
button-down shirts pass the cafe windows and sit at one of the metal picnic benches. A gaggle of dudes swarm the girls, sharks to chum. The guys wear super baggy pants and speak in this faux-
gangsta accent like they thug life, yo, like they’re from the projects,
which is funny because they’re probably all from the wealthiest suburbs just outside of the city, living in mini-mansions owned by parents who run PR firms and are politicians. It’s that kind of school. Retards.

The girls know what they’re doing, how they’re sitting, showing some serious leg, sitting side-by-side, hips cocked, the ends of the skirts pulling up past mid-thigh. My God their skin looks smooth like a baby’s ass, so smooth you want to lick it—the three white girls with this 2% milk sheen and the black girl a dark chocolate dream. The black girl might just be a super model—I mean she is thin and tall with an incredibly angular face in a beautiful way and her big, bold eyes might as well be singing me a song. It’d be hard to execute any of the five zombie survival rules with these girls.

The hallways swell inside with dudes stopping, pressing, and pushing each other to see the girls, like it was their first time. Once guys find a clear line of vision, they freeze and hold. There has to be a name for this. Is there a word for it? Can I call it something?
Hotnified? Yes. Yup. That’s it. We’re hotnified. We’re hotnified, watching the girls.

My dangerous daydream continues, the girls white-pantied and strutting around in slow motion to a rock-n-roll soundtrack, when the small, Asian Brother sprints across the cafe, bullet-like, and hurls himself through the double doors to the outside area. I expect to see him do some kind of back flip or combo leg-swipe kick or crazy mid-air Jujitsu. Instead, it looks more like hand-to-hand combat.
He grabs boys at their collars and elbows and flings them away from the sexy, girl zombies come to infect and devour the Byron
Hall Boys. The boys laugh and slide their bags onto their backs and go back inside the building. The girls are unphased, unmoved, and extend their hands to the Asian Brother as an introduction.

I push my way through the crowd of horny high school perverts,
their faces pressed to the doors and windows, practically licking the glass, the fucks. I edge my way to the front of these boner boys and head outside, pulled in like some kind of sexual riptide.

The air is dead outside, breezeless, hot and heavy with humidity,
like the girls brought all of this hot, sexy air with them. I sit at bench and, smooth as all hell, stoop to tie both shoes that are already double-knotted. The girls, still undressed in my head, circle the Brother. Seeing girls in short skirts pass by makes my pecker shiver for sure, so I can only imagine how the entire school of horny bastards feels.

“Ladies, you must leave,” the small, Asian Brother says. “No girls on school.” He shakes his head. “Three thirty, then you return.” He taps the face of his watch. “Then girls on campus.”

“What’s your name, Brother?” a girl asks, a tan girl with dark,
red hair. She looks over at me and without even thinking or anything
I raise my fucking hand and wave to her with a big old goofball smile on my face. She doesn’t smile back. Fuck me.

“I am Brother Lee,” he says.

“We’re looking for the drama department,” the girl with dark,
red hair says. She hands him a stack of papers. “We are members of the drama club at Prudence High, Brother Lee, and are working on the Byron Hall Fall drama, but we need to turn these in before auditions.”

“You bring after school,” Brother Lee says. “I’m no mailman.”
Brother Lee crosses his arms over his chest. “I look like mailman to you?”

“No, Brother,” the super model says, “you don’t look like a mailman at all. They have better uniforms.” She smiles at him.

“I don’t think this is funny,” he says.

She touches his arm and says, “They are our parental permission slips. We need to give them to Father Vincent Gibbs.”

“You wait to last minute,” Brother Lee says, shaking his head in disapproval, but even Brother Lee is powerless against the plaid skirt and teenage shaved legs. “Follow me. No walking.” He rushes down the sidewalk toward the lecture hall building, herding them away from the rest of us, like cattle away from a cliff; although in this scenario the girls seem more like the cliff and the rest of us the cattle.

The girls march single file past Brother Lee who follows quickly behind them. The girl with the dark red hair looks at me over her shoulder again, but still without a smile, not at all like in the movies,
like in those RomComs—the movies where two souls are destined to be together and love one another and get married but for an hour and a half they keep missing each other, either by chance or fate, or by some kind of bullshit, until one rainy or sunny or snowy day their lives crash together and they see each other for the very first time. The girl passes by the boy and smiles over her shoulder and the boy returns the smile, maybe adding a wave, but she doesn’t see the wave because the guy that she’s with is her boyfriend who distracts her. The smile is what I’m really talking about here, the smile that says they will meet up again soon. Then, the girl falls out of love with her fuckneck boyfriend just as the boy is about to settle for some plain girl who is good enough for him, when in the nick of time the boy and the girl wind up at a public park feeding birds, or at a used library browsing books in the same section, or strolling through a grocery store in the produce section—his hands squeezing cantaloupe melons as she digs her way through a bin of avocadoes—and they see each other again, but this time it will be the last time they see each other like strangers and the first time they see each other as friends.

Yeah, this girl that I like doesn’t look at me like that in the slightest. This girl looks at me like she thinks I’m just another pervert,
like she knows I undressed her, got her completely naked in my head.

Brother Lee escorts the girls to the lecture hall building as they disappear.

I walk back into the even hallway of the school by the cafe and realize I am still smiling and when I stop smiling it makes me feel sad for some reason. Because she never smiled back.

Meet the Author

J.R. Angelella has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and his short fiction has appeared in various literary journals. He and his wife, Kate Angelella, are co-writing two YA novels for Sourcebooks/Teen Fire, Crossed and Cursed, the first of which will publish in 2012. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, visit his website at www.jrangelella.com.

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Zombie 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Ellonkah More than 1 year ago
I would like to thank Soho Press for letting me read and review this book. Jeremy Barker is a somewhat typical high school freshman. He loves zombie movies, girls make his nose bleed, and he’s not a big fan of authority. His parents are separated and he lives with his dad and Dog. Most of this book follows Jeremy and what goes on inside his head as he starts high school, has troubles with his family, and meets his first girlfriend. One day, Jeremy sees his pinky-less English teacher slip his father a DVD in the school parking lot. The first chance Jeremy gets, he watches the DVD, which contains a strange and gruesome kind of ritual surgery. Jeremy confronts his dad about the DVD, but the confrontation ends up like a lot of scenes in this book – fractured and distracted. Jeremy gets only a few sentences out and his dad switches the conversation to something much more mundane (calling a girl, bad-mouthing Jeremy’s mother, asking him how his day at school was, etc.) I enjoy a good coming-of-age story, but I just kept waiting for something, ANYTHING to actually happen in this one. The author spends almost the entire book on day-to-day Jeremy and never really pushes any kind of plot. “The mystery of the surgery DVD” could have been presented in a much more compelling manner that could have turned this into a serious contemporary page-turner. But it wasn’t, the DVD gets found, then mentioned a time or two to no serious effect, until the end when the “something” finally happens…and unfortunately by then it’s a highly predictable “something.” The language and sexual humor in this book will turn off a lot of readers, so don’t even bother trying to read this if you can’t handle every swear word and homophobic insult that you can think of repeated many times throughout the book. I am not a reader who is sensitive to language, and some of the writing in this book was absolutely hilarious and witty. Unfortunately an equal amount came across as simply trying too hard to be “that way.” I’m curious to see how this author writes his next (adult) novel. I really did like a lot of the things about his style and creativity; I just think that this story wasn’t told quite the way I wanted it to be told.
Captain_Doodles More than 1 year ago
Did I miss something? I bought this book based on all the glowing reviews I read here and at that other book store website (which shall remain nameless). The whole book felt like the author's rough draft. Characters were never fully developed, the "zombie" theme felt forced (like the author only chose that topic because of the current popularity of the Zombie genre) dialogue between characters felt forced and unreal and the ending was awful. What happened to the father? What was he involved in? Sorry J.R. this one felt like a swing and a miss.
SlowMobius More than 1 year ago
Poorly conceived, though generally well written, "Zombie" was a book that had momentum, but no real direction. By the time I got to the end of the book I had so little emotional investment in the characters that I really could not care less how it ended.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book based on the reviews and the description, but they are so wrong. The characters were not developed enough to get me invested in the book and I kept wanting more out of the storyline. I only kept reading waiting for something more to happen but unfortunately it never does.
amyismagic More than 1 year ago
Pretty clever. I got it just cause I like zombies, but I had a good time reading it
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely and interesting find for both zombie movie lovers and lovers of the J.D. Salinger classic "Catcher in the Rye." What begins as the light coming of age story of a zombie-movie buff becomes an intense novel about the aftermath of the Vietnamese War on the U.S. surviving stories - definitely warenting a re-read as you ask yourself "was that real!?!"