Book Review: Alice in Zombieland

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Author: Gena Showalter
ISBN: 9781921796609
RRP: $19.99

Alice in Zombieland is a book with a striking cover that really piqued my curiosity. I finished the book a couple of days ago but needed to take some time to let it digest properly so that I can do it justice.

The cover image is definitely reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with Alice a little more grown up, and this is Book One of The White Rabbit Chronicles, so you would be forgiven for expecting this to be a retelling of the classic Alice in Wonderland. If you go in expecting Alice in Wonderland with zombies inhabiting Wonderland you will be sadly disappointed.

I went in with intrigue and few expectations, and I must say I was hooked. Alice is a 16 year old girl who has grown up in a very sheltered home due to what she always believed was a psychosis in her father. She never really made close friends or had boyfriends because she wasn’t allowed out after dark and she didn’t want to take anyone home to meet the family. This also counted out extra curricular activities at school in case she couldn’t make it home in time.

Everything changes in an instant when Alice convinces her father to let them all attend her sisters dance recital, which will keep them out long after dark. On the way home Alice is in a car accident that kills her entire family, and sheds a terrifying light on dads psychosis. In that instant her world shifts and she falls down the rabbit hole into a new world, inhabited with zombies and an entire spiritual realm Alice never even dreamed of.

The only clear and recognisable element taken from Wonderland is the white rabbit, who is a portent in the clouds of a rough night coming. Early on his status as a portent is clear but it takes a while before it is revealed just what he is warning of.

alice in zombieland

Nothing is what it seems in Zombieland and Ali is fast coming to realise perhaps she could have learned a little more from dad while she had the chance.

Ali’s life has been turned totally upside down and she wants nothing more than to wake and find it was all a dream, but that only happens in fairy tales. She spends the summer hiding from the world but when school goes back and she starts at a new school she has to start living again.

There are scattered references to the Carroll classic, many of them obscure, but there are also elements of Wonderland if you allow your imagination a wide scope of association. I can recognise many of the characters, incarnated differently.

I think Showalter has re-imagined on the same loose themes and brought a resilient new Ali to a young adult audience who love the supernatural side of life, without the graphic gore, more so than re-told the classic.

Not only does Ali lose her whole family in an accident that she walks away from barely scratched but then she needs to change schools, which means a whole new dynamic and bunch of people. Lucky for her she runs into Kat on her first day, an outgoing and seemingly egotistical girl that Ali met in the hospital, which gives her an immediate ally and source of info about the students.

Naive young lady falls for bad boy, not terribly original but I think written quite well. Kat and Ali wander past the gang of bad boys in the hall and when Ali locks eyes with Cole the world falls away in a vision that seems too real to be the first imaginings of falling in lust. The way things play out between them is something that I enjoyed watching because the connection was something neither of them wanted or understood.

Showalter’s writing style flows and is easy to read. I found the language to be quite modern and really seemed to fit the age group of the characters. There were characters that I loved, characters that I wasn’t so fond of and characters that I wanted to hate but recognised something in them that made me love them anyway.

Kat was annoying and over the top, gossipy and egotistical, but there’s a vulnerability and a hidden side to her that says there’s more to her than what she’s showing.

Cole has an extremely bad reputation and the looks to back it up, involvement with him and his friends is tantamount to social suicide but is it possible that all of the stories are true? Could there be more to his story than anyone’s aware? He has some character traits that leave me wanting to slap him but as the story unfolds I became more sympathetic and I look forward to seeing him develop into the next book.

I really enjoyed this book and it ate away a couple of afternoons while I couldn’t drag myself out of it, it has left me eager to discover what’s in store in Book Two.

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