Every high school has its cliques: there are the jocks, the nerds, the preps, the gangbangers, and so on. In Generation Dead, Daniel Waters introduces a whole new subculture - the undead. He's not talking about goths, or even secretive Cullen-ish clans, he's talking dead kids who have come back to life. Like the freaky pets in the Stephen King novel, these re-lifers are not exactly the same, but close approximations. Pretty much. Call them zombies, call them corpsicles, call them living impaired, call them whatever you want, they've invaded the town of Oakvale and they're not leaving. In fact, they're blogging, playing high school football, and lobbying for equal rights. What's a real, live person to do? If you're Phoebe Kendall, you try to hide the fact that you're crushing all over one of the wormburgers. Especially since your friends find the idea creepy as, well, hell. And when you can no longer disguise your attraction - then you better just watch out.
Phoebe, a black-wearing, metal-listening, poetry-writing Goth girl is used to life on the fringe of Oakvale High society. So, when she finds herself drawn to Tommy Williams, a handsome zombie, she figures why not? She can't get any more ostracized than she already is. But even in a world where the dead walk amongst the living, befriending a "differently biotic" kid is not quite kosher, and dating one is enough to cause a serious stir. The more she gets to know Tommy, however, the more Phoebe begins to wonder why live people and zombies can't get along. Tommy's more empathetic, brave and kind than most of the guys at Oakvale High - what's wrong with getting to know him better? A lot, apparently.
While Phoebe's friends are concerned about her growing obsession with the zombie community, one person is downright livid. Pete Martinsburg, a beefy football player, will stop at nothing to keep Tommy away from a living girl. In fact, he'd be happy to see the whole corpsicle population disappear. And he has a plan to make it happen. The only person standing in his way is wimpy Adam Layman, who doesn't even have the guts to tell Phoebe how he feels about her. If the zombie lovers think they're going to win, they've got another think coming.
With Oakvale divided on the explosive zombie issue, it's no wonder things escalate quickly. As tempers flare and violence mounts, things are rapidly getting out of hand. Can Phoebe brave it all to be with Tommy? Does she even want to be more than friends? Will her friends stand by her? Or will she lose everything by siding with the undead? Can anyone stop Pete before it's too late? Or will the zombie rights movement end before it ever gets a chance to begin? The answers come fast and furious as this pageturner guns to its surprising conclusion.
For some reason (maybe because of the cover?), I expected Generation Dead to be a lighter, funnier version of Dawn of the Dead, so I was surprised to find that it actually has a lot of depth to it. Too much depth sometimes, as it tends toward preachy, but still ... it packs a powerful message about the dangers of intolerance. Didacticism distracts from the storyline a bit, but not too, too much. I still managed to get pretty darn entangled in the characters and plot - enough so that I had a hard time putting the book down, especially toward the end. I cared enough that I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I didn't have to wait for the sequel, because my pal (Hallie) at Disney had already sent me a copy. Phew.
For a book that looks like so much teenage fluff, this one turned out to be enjoyable on several levels. Now, don't get me wrong, it's no Twilight (it's not nearly as detailed or compelling), but still - Generation Dead's a sneaky little book that just might get under your skin. And make you think. After you've just about bitten your nails to the quick trying to figure out what's going to happen, of course. It should win over Stephenie Meyer fans who don't mind a little bit messier story (this one's not exactly a clean read, although it's not filthy either). Vampire, zombie, whatever - I get the feeling (maybe I'm "telepathetic," like Phoebe) kids are going to eat this one up. I sure did.