September 9, 2012

Book Review: Dearly, Departed

Author:  Lia Habel
Series:  Gone With the Respiration (it's possible that this is a fan made title)
Length:  467 pages
Publisher:  Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House Inc.)
On-Sale Date:  October 18, 2011
Format:  Hardcover

Definitions as per my understanding:
Lia Habel’s zombies:  Dead.  Can only be killed by beheading and / or a bullet to the brain.  Zombie-ness caused by a genetic mutation that kills you, and causes you to be reborn as one of the undead.  Some zombies reanimate with their brains intact, while others are insane.
Grays:  Insane zombies.
Lazarus Virus (or "Laz") Zombie genetic mutation.
New Victoria:  Mostly Central America, plus Mexico, parts of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Peru, and Brazil.

New Victoria was built hundreds of years ago, in a world that had been nearly destroyed.  Now, in 2195, young ladies carry electric powered parasols, because this future is combined with modern advances and historic elegance.
Nora Dearly is a sixteen year-old living in present day New Victoria, 2195.  Her life hasn’t been the same since her father’s death – exactly one year ago – and getting approached by a strange boy isn’t helping things.  The boy – Bram – introduces himself as someone who knew her father before he died, and has a message to pass on.  Only, Nora doesn’t believe him, and from that moment on, her life is completely turned upside down.  She’s attacked, threatened and kidnapped by troupes of the walking dead.  But how can the dead be living?  The government has been hiding the existence of zombies and the Lazarus Virus, and now the Laz is spreading, and will not be contained.
Nora’s thrust right into the middle of zombie central, and the longer she’s there the more she learns – about her father, the Laz, and the part she has to play.  She’s let in on some dangerous secrets, and Nora might just be falling for the boy who pulled her into this world.

I bow down to Lia Habel.  I was ecstatic that Dearly, Departed was the first zombie novel I’d ever read.  After I finished reading it, I was literally jumping up and down while making exuberant hand gestures … (and then I read this line that I found hilarious to everyone who would listen to me).

I had absolutely no intention of reading Dearly, Departed, although, I was immediately drawn to the pretty cover.  As soon as I read the word “zombie” I was turned off.  Someone, with a similar taste in books, had this exact reaction and loved it, so I decided to give it a chance.  I was so happy that I did.

I don’t know if I had ever laughed so much while reading a book (I’ve read 15 of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels).  I wasn’t even sure if everything I was laughing at was meant to be funny.  I was on the bus, on the subway, on campus, and I laughed, giggled, clapped, and stamped my feet.  I could not contain myself while I was reading.

Lia had a way of cutting off a chapter right at that crucial moment where you needed to know what happened, and you needed to know right then.  Sufficient to say, it was difficult to stop reading this book for any period of time.  I still found zombies a bit creepy but was able to move past it, and this book just swallowed me whole.  It was so easy to love Dearly, Departed.

There was so much thought put into this world.  These characters and the Lazarus Virus (zombie-making-ness) fit carefully together.  Inevitably, while reading I questioned the mechanics of the Laz and zombification.  The answers given were explained well and so logical that I could have, possibly, believed that the Laz was real.

Dearly, Departed was primarily told through Nora Dearly and zombie Bram, but other characters had their say as well.  You wanted to hear from the character you were reading, and you never rushed through a chapter or wished that you were reading from a different viewpoint.

The story centered around Nora Dearly, and everything always pointed back to her.  Nora was left in the dark, and the reader discovered the undead world as she did.  She was not without fear, but she wouldn’t live in ignorance either.  Nora was resilient and completely stubborn making her ideal for contending with an army of the undead.

Bram was the love interest.  He also happened to be a zombie with an intriguing name (Bram is short for Abraham).  Bram was both sweet and ferocious at once.  He was sad and resigned to an inescapable fate, but a glow of determination burned within him.  The care he had for other people saved him, and love gave him a purpose.  In the end you didn’t care an awful lot that he was part of the undead.  Bram was not a monster.  In fact, he was more of a gentleman than most teenage boys.

Nora and Bram had every possible obstacle standing against them, and you wanted nothing more than for them to beat the odds.  You wanted them to survive and you wanted them to survive together.  However, deep down, even they know that any sort of relationship they had would not have “forever” attached to it.

It was terribly sad that you became connected to these characters while knowing that they were already dead.  They were literally falling apart; missing limbs and rotten flesh.  Their hearts weren’t beating and yet, they were capable of loving and hating and feeling.  They were dead, but they were human.  (Fictional characters no longer need to be alive for me to love them).

Take a bite out of Dearly, Departed.  (Yes, I had to say that; I could not help myself).  Seriously now, I cannot form coherent sentences that would explain how much I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Dearly, Departed was so enjoyable.  Now, when I’m shopping I’ll pick up books that I wouldn’t have ordinarily, because I could end up loving it like I loved Dearly, Departed.

Favourite quote:  "Please use the bathroom appointed for your gender and mortality!"
- page 459

Premise:  5/5
Plot:  5/5
Writing:  5/5
Characters:  5/5
Overall:  5/5

Disclosure:  I received a finished copy from the publisher.  This did not influence my review in any way.

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