Things have really been okay for Angel Crawford except that she’s a zombie now. All she wants is to do is eat your brains, but she’s not unreasonable: she’s not going to eat your eyes. Let’s crack open My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland.
Angel Crawford is a loser.
Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.
That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.
Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she’s hungriest!
Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.
Say this for My Life as a White Trash Zombie: it doesn’t shy away from the gross aspects of zombiehood. When it comes to the process of how zombies acquire brains for consumption, it goes into full-on skull-cracking, stomach-churning grisly detail. And while I may be viscerally repulsed by such detailed description, intellectually it makes me appreciate the book a lot more to see that it has the courage of its convictions: if it’s going to be about a topic with gross implications, then it’s by God going to face those implications head on, not awkwardly tiptoe around them. I guess it speaks to how many works I’ve read which completely lack the will to commit to what they’re going for that I’m actually able to appreciate this even when the actual gory details make my stomach turn. Chalk it up to picking up one ecchi manga too many where the entire plot it transparently an excuse for fanservice and yet every last nipple is scrupulously obscured, I guess.
With regards to the plot, the core of the story is a mystery: who turned Angel into a zombie? It’s not easy to figure it out before the reveal, since the book actually goes a bit overboard with the red herrings: everyone is always shooting Angel knowing smiles and winking references and making suggestive comments. Sometimes we eventually find out they were actually referring to something else, like Clive thinking that Angel is using her new job at the morgue to steal drugs rather than brains; other times, I guess it’s just a freaky coincidence that people are making all these comments with a potential double-meaning. Fortunately, when the ultimate answer does come, it makes perfect sense; nicely accounting for motive as well as means and opportunity. The other mystery in the novel, the one about the actual serial killer antagonist, actually doesn’t seem as interesting because there aren’t as many clues building up to it. At first, it isn’t even clear that it is a mystery: “just some random zombie eating people” is taken as an acceptable explanation by all the characters Angel talks to. Happens all the time, no point in getting all worked up about it, and no need to do anything since the unsub will eventually move on or get knocked off by a competitor. It’s not until the twist reveal – that the victims weren’t killed for their brains by zombies, but are zombies which were killed by having their brains destroyed. That actually does raise an air of mystery about the situation: is a zombie using his connections in the undead community to locate and destroy his own kind, or has a human learned of the existence of zombies and started hunting them? But by the time the twist hits, it’s too late to start building tension, since the book’s nearly over and the big reveal of the villain only a few pages away.
Finally, there’s the glue that holds any narrative together: the characters. Angel, of course, is the strongest of the bunch: a sympathetic anti-hero trying to repair the pieces of a life she ruined, struggling not only with her new zombie-ism but also dealing with the consequences of her former drug addiction problem and handling living with her alcoholic father. Honestly, compared to her, the other characters come off as a little shallow; not to say that they don’t potentially have hidden depths, but we certainly don’t see any of them explored to the same extent as Angel. Even the villain only gets a perfunctory “oh, in case you were wondering, I’m doing this because zombies killed my parents”. Still, they manage to work as amusing foils for Angel, whether ally or enemy; and there’s still plenty of time to develop them in the sequels.
Final Rating: 3/5