I have been a fan of Darren Shan, since 2013 when my mum picked up the first few books of the Demonata series from a charity shop so that I had something to read on my holiday in Mexico… Not only is he an incredibly witty and captivating writer, but he is genuinely a lovely person; he responds to every tweet (whether it be with a like or a retweet) and even wrote my mum and I a letter after we told him what a fan we are of his novels!
Thus, I was nervous to try Zom-B. The Demonata series and the Cirque de Freak series were the pinnacle of my young adult reader life, and I didn’t want to read this new series and be disappointed with the results. When I flicked through the book, I could see that there were drawings within the book, and it was quite large print, and honestly this repelled me even more because it felt like it was a children’s book. However, once you start reading, it is soon made very clear that this is not a children’s book in any way, shape or form.
One of them key themes in this book is racism, which I’m not going to lie to you, is a hard theme to read about. Particularly because it is from the point of view of a racist (or at least someone influenced by racist views in their family) which meant that I really struggled to relate to the character. There were certain aspects I could sympathise with, for example, the protagonists (“B”) constant fear of physical abuse from their father and their drive to protect their mother. But as soon as a character who wasn’t white was introduced, B’s emotions turned to anger and hatred, which made me feel very uncomfortable and unsympathetic.
Although I say that it is an uncomfortable read, I cannot deny that it works. Darren Shan is “the master of horror” and who says that the horror has to be demonic? The horror of this story (apart than the living dead!) in my opinion, is about exploring the dark side of the human psyche. It takes me back to when I was in sixth form and studying the Gothic, one of the key themes was “The Other.” For those who do not know about “The Other” it is basically a narrative device that uses things that are “different” to promote fear, which in this case can be linked to Xenophobia…
*SPOILER* For me the most jaw dropping moment of this narrative was at the denouement, where it is revealed that “B” is a girl. I pride myself in my non conformity to gender stereotypes but Darren Shan had me hook, line and sinker. Even though there were no confirmation (not even within the drawings) of B’s gender, in my imagination she was a boy. Perhaps I was swayed because she has a shaven head or that she was so violent and aggressive… But then I was so angry at myself because shaven heads are gender neutral and violence is not a standard characteristic of men! After I found out B was a girl, I literally had to put the book down and think about my life and my views, which I guess summarises another theme within Shan’s writing.
5 stars – Would read over and over, can’t wait till I start the next one “Zom-B underground”