Rot and ruin by Jonathan Maberry

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Benny Imura 1. Simon and Schuster, 2011. ISBN 9780857070951.
(Age 13+) Highly recommended. When I discovered that Rot and Ruin had won the Cybils Award for Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction (2010) and was on YALSA's list of Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011) I knew that I was in for a treat. Benny Imura lives in a world where a virus has infested the human race and turned the majority of the population into zombies. The small, fortified community, where he and his brother Tom live, has rigid laws to keep the people safe. One of them is that every teenager must find a job by the time they turn 15 or they have their rations cut. Tom wants a reluctant Benny to join him in the family business, which is to kill zombies. What he discovers about the Rot and Ruin, the place that the zombies inhabit, will change his life forever.
A fast paced plot, lots of action and great characters, are a feature of the book. But for me what makes it stand out are the issues that Maberry addresses. All the following questions are examined in depth and I was left thinking about them long after I finished the book. What qualities make a good human being? What is the nature of fear? Should you turn a blind eye to things that you know are wrong? What is courage? How much change is good for a society?
The relationship between Benny and Tom is also a highlight of the book. At the beginning of the book Benny is a typical teenager, self centred and blinkered, believing that Tom is a coward. By the end he has come to realise that sometimes your perception about things can be wrong. He also has a great relationship with his friends, Chong and Morgie, and a budding romance with Nix.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this to boys. I think that reluctant readers may enjoy it for the action and originality. It is also a book that girls will enjoy, especially those fans of The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan or Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. I am really looking forward to the sequel that is due out later this year.
Pat Pledger