Death was everywhere. They all stared at me, bumping into one another and slowly coming forward.
Sixteen-year-old Zharie Young is absolutely certain her mother morphed into a zombie before her untimely death, but she can't seem to figure out why. Why her mother died, why her aunt doesn't want her around, why all her dreams seem suddenly, hopelessly out of reach. And why, ever since that day, she's been seeing zombies everywhere.
Then Bo moves into her apartment building―tall, skateboard in hand, freckles like stars, and an undeniable charm. Z wants nothing to do with him, but when he transforms into a half zombie right before her eyes, something feels different. He contradicts everything she thought she knew about monsters, and she can't help but wonder if getting to know him might unlock the answers to her mother's death.
As Zharie sifts through what's real and what's magic, she discovers a new truth about the world: Love can literally change you―for good or for dead.
In this surrealist journey of grief, fear, and hope, Britney S. Lewis's debut novel explores love, zombies, and everything in between in an intoxicating amalgam of the real and the fantastic.
Britney Lewis is an author of young adult fiction, currently working on her debut novel. She has a B.A. in corporate communications with an emphasis in business and art. She strongly supports We Need Diverse Books, and she’s an avid follower of #DVpit and #BVM.
When Britney isn’t daydreaming about new stories, she can be found binge-watching TV shows with her fiancé and her pup or practicing West Coast Swing. She lives in Kansas City.
I could somewhat see what I was getting myself into when this started off really sad. I was genuinely intrigued by the zombies that Zharie was seeing. That definitely raised questions that I’m glad were answered by the end. There was an aura of sadness throughout the book that I was, unfortunately, getting tired of since it really felt like nothing was happening in the book. In fact, by the end, it did feel like there wasn’t really much of a goal in this book. I still felt like this book was trying to communicate something by the end so I’m not completely unsatisfied.
Her relationships in this book were a recurring thing. The ones with her family, friends, and a particular boy that I did not care for. I liked this part of the plot because it was a good representation of the effects grief had on relationships, old and new.
I do think this was a really cool idea but definitely needed way more to be an excellent story!
Y'ALL AIN'T READY!! I sobbed a lot and was constantly reminded of how lonely I am but this book was so good and wholesome and heart wrenching I need everyone to read it and endure all the painful feels 😭
I didn't know what to expect when I went into The Undead Truth of Us. I knew it was about a girl who was seeing zombies after her mother's death but I didn't know much else.
You shouldn't go into this one expecting hardcore horror. The zombies in this story are metaphorical manifestations of Zharie's grief. So once you frame your mindset around that it makes the book more enjoyable.
And I did enjoy the poetic writing style even if at times I was a little confused and the Vincent Van Gough stuff paired with the dream sequences could be a little trippy at times. Pace wise it started out very slow but by the halfway mark I needed to know what would happen next.
I did like the glimpses we saw into Zharie's life before her mother passed especially through their shared world of dance. I also liked how Bo tried to bring her out of her shell and help her enjoy things about her life despite the numbness she was feeling.
I wish the drama with her aunt and biological father would've come into play earlier in the book because there was so much to explore there went it came to family.
Very visual readers will enjoy all the descriptions throughout because Zharie sees her world vividly like a painting.
ARC copy provided in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my rating or review.
3 LYRICAL STARS
The Undead Truth of Us is a poetic, lyrical, touching story. I cannot help but feel some of it was a little too poetic for me, and some of the novel definitely went over my head, but I still loved the uniquity of the metaphorical zombies, and the overarching messages on love and loss. Bo was such a precious character to me, and Zharie was incredibly powerful in her realism – I’m glad I read this.
“I was no longer part of the moment, part of the street. I was the moment. I was the long, stretched-out blackness between two stop walks, and I think, somewhere past the filters in the sky, Mama was here, too.” (This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.)
Before reading this, you definitely have to be aware that this is not an apocalyptic, survival-against-all-odds zombie story. Zharie is not battling a zombie apocalypse – she is battling the potent grief emanating from the loss of her mother. I learnt this from reading reviews prior to opening the book, and while I felt a little disappointment at the time – I’m a bit of a sucker for zombies stories – I’m definitely glad I understood that going into this book. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gruesome descriptions of the undead, because there definitely are! Lewis’ writing was vivid and descriptive, I adored the surrealist depictions of how Zharie saw the world, and also loved the captivating descriptions of Zharie’s relationship with each character.
“Bo was more alive today than he’d ever been before. It was a cosmic cataclysm, electric energy, a collision creating a while new realm. Maybe he wasn’t undead after all.” (This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.)
Bo was so precious to me, it was insane. He was a little adorable biracial simp of a skater boy, and I loved every page he was on. Not a single character in this book was perfect, they were all wonderfully flawed and brilliantly human, and each and every one made mistakes, but they were all such powerful characters for their growth through this. And Bo was practically flawless in my eyes!
This is a very gorgeous book, and one that will stay in my mind for many years to come. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the free copy provided in exchange for an honest review :).
The Undead Truth of Us is a literary young adult novel about a girl who sees people around her transforming into zombies. She witnessed her mother transform into a zombie shortly before she passed away, and now she sometimes sees rotting corpses on the streets. But she’s the only person who sees them as anything other than ordinary human beings.
The metaphor, unfortunately, is a tad too heavy handed. I’m a huge fan of literature and films that use paranormal elements to represent real-life struggles and themes, but usually they can be appreciated on multiple levels. The horror movie, Ginger Snaps, for example, can be enjoyed on the surface level of a pre-teen girl transforming into a werewolf, but it can also be appreciated as a feminist commentary on puberty and growing up. In this book, however, it’s clear right off the bat that people aren’t actually becoming “zombies”, which takes the pleasure out of searching for a hidden meaning in this type of narrative. The meaning and themes reach out of the book to slap you in the face.
All that said, the writing style is beautiful, which is why I gave it a higher rating. It’s definitely written for John Green fans, and this was never more obvious than when Zharie and her new neighbor and friend, Bo, were texting each other about John Green’s books. The book is full of eloquent, and at times, disturbing prose, interspersed with a lot of speculation about the world and what it means to grow up, (with some random Gen Z slang thrown into the mix).
*Thank you to ALA Annual Conference, the author, and the publisher for the ebook to review*
"And no matter what I did, I’d never be able to stop it because now I knew the spoiler to every story: We all died in the end."
There was a time in my life when I was obsessed with zombies. They shamble around, don't say much, and like to eat human flesh. It was my ideal person until I realized that they probably smell rotten. My views changed after that. With all of that being said, this book had everything to catch my attention. It also has things to catch readers' attention who don't read in this genre. I'm glad that I got a chance to read this.
After reading a few pages, I knew where this was going with the zombies. It kind of took away from the story a little bit but not enough to deter me. I was in this to the very end. The zombies added a nice touch to a strong storyline. In moments of uncertainty, they would pop into the story and make it that much stronger. It really made me more interested to see where things go.
This was really good. The storyline was really unique and nothing like I have read before. I loved that about this book. I also found myself really enjoying how Zharie dealt with some tough life situations. She could have gone the really immature route but she was stronger than I would have been. Here's where I got kind of turned off, Zharie didn't stick out as a main character. She was written as a typical ya character and that sucks because her character was stronger than that. That really bummed me out.
The Undead Truth of Us was a great story. I loved the storyline of Zharie learning to grow without her supportive Mother, the sudden appearance of zombies, and her neighbor love interest. It all made for an emotional read. One I highly recommend.
The undead truth of us was something i was literally dying to read all year and then it turned out to not be for me at all. it's not horror first of all, everything is a poetic metaphor for grief.
the pop culture references drove me kind of crazy. pokemon go, cardi b, the used, even john green to name a few.
surprisingly very wordy, tons of descriptions we don't need. the writing itself was a little grating. there would be a lot of one word sentences or they would be like half formed. a lot of sentences that should have started with the word "i" - did not.
the story itself follows Zharie trying to make her way through life after losing her mother but i just didn't feel connected to it. i should have been more sad but instead i found the writing hard to ignore
This was a beautifully written examination of love and grief. The prose is stunning and the characters feel so real. My heart ached for Zharie as she struggles to understand her grief, her relationships, the world around her, and her new reality in seeing zombies everywhere. There are also wonderful, fluttery moments as Zharie and her new neighbor Bo grow closer, and relatable moments as Zharie tries to fit in with a new group of friends and understand their dynamic. I dove into this book for the interesting zombie premise, but what I love most about it is Zharie and her compelling and relatable journey.
It also makes me want to spend a while in a Van Gogh painting, and not just because of the beautiful cover!
3.5 A uniquely written and incredibly emotional exploration of grief and love and tolls they can take on a person.
From metaphorical zombie manifestations to a gut-wrenching portray of the loss of a parent, this was an incredibly emotional read and while there were aspects I wish had been a little more developed and some elements I didn't quite get on with, overall this was an original and incredibly visual twist on the zombie archetype.
I wanted real zombies and less John Green type of writing. No one does John Green like John Green. I was SUPPOSED to love this book because of a bunch of my favorite things being mentioned like Looking for Alaska, Starry Night, sunflowers, The Used, A Walk to Remember, etc. But I was so bored a lot of the time, and I couldn't stand all the constant metaphors. I also felt no chemistry between the characters and it was super insta-lovey. Loved the ending but overall highly disappointed in this 5-star prediction /:
Wow. I just finished and I am trying to get my scrambled brain together after that bomb of an ending.
What a spectacular debut from Lewis. The vibes were very much Eternal Sunshine/I’m Thinking of Ending Things wherein the narrator is wholly unreliable.
Are zombies actually existing in this world or is Z hallucinating? Are any of these interactions occurring within this world? Questions which are frankly secondary to Z’s navigation of life after the death of her mother including a budding romance with the boy (and *maybe* zombie) next door.
And did I mention the ending? There’s no way you don't think about this book for weeks after finishing.
Overall, a beautiful psychedelic exploration of love, grief and emotional vulnerability.
If you asked me to pick out something I’ll always remember about this book it would be that Britney Lewis is incredibly talented and her prose has purpose. She doesn’t have to tell you how the MC’s feel, you can feel their emotions by the way she utilizes language. I am a sucker for prose so I was pulled into this world quickly and didn’t want it to end. The romance is gorgeous, real and raw. This is not just a beautiful love story. It’s a story about living with your grief and what happens when it overwhelms you, but because of the way Zharie visuals and conceptualizes her grief, we get to see it in a fresh new way that was completely fascinating to me. I cried like a baby at the end of this book, I laughed throughout it, I put my head in a pillow and squealed at the cute parts. They’re really, really cute. And I think it’s safe to say that I will read this book again one day, and I hardly ever reread books so that might be my greatest compliment. I love it and I think you will too.
Came in for the zombies, got struck by the grief, won by the prose!
What I loved most about this book was its portrayal of grief and how it manifests in so many ways. We get ups and downs, we get beautiful sweet moments, harsh reality jutting in-between jokes and most importantly, the lyrical way in which this book is written.
I alternated between reading this book in huge chunks, getting so hit in the face with emotions and then not reading it all, to picking it up again and - tadaaa!
I loved the dynamic between Zharie (what a beautiful name!) and Bo. It was super cute, super real at times and overall, just not within the usual bounds of a romantic relationship. That bangs.
I might not have read much of horror, but I haven't read anything quite like this either. And I mean that in a good way! Reading this book felt like I've grown up with these characters, and know of what particular dish their homes remind me of.
Recommended for everyone who like their chai with a little of gur and a little of rain.
I meant to read this on NetGalley when it was a read now arc that was made available but never got around it to it. Instead, I waited until the audiobook was available and listened to it instead. I low key was a little disappointed when I realized that Z wasn’t actually seeing zombies, this was just a metaphor for how she was noticing people were behaving / acting due to their grief. I do think that this way of writing the plot and having the MC come to terms with it was unique but some of the pacing lost me. I feel like the climax happened a little too late in the book. I also wasn’t 100% understanding what Bo & Z had when it involved chemistry because I wasn’t seeing it. I do want to read Britney’s newest book though.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
"Sixteen-year-old Zharie Young is absolutely certain her mother morphed into a zombie before her untimely death, but she can't seem to figure out why. Why her mother died, why her aunt doesn't want her around, why all her dreams seem suddenly, hopelessly out of reach. And why, ever since that day, she's been seeing zombies everywhere."
Unsure if this is going to have horror vibes or contemporary vibes. If it's more contemporary I may be very bored.
I have a feeling this book could become as iconic to the YA genre as a John Green book. Was it cheesy? Yes. Did I not know what was going on for a while? Absolutely. But the way the author explored grief was really interesting and I had never read anything like it before. The surrealist aspect and the different type of relationships it explored was really really enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to reading the author’s next projects!
Quick review for a progressive read. So I liked this quite a bit, but with some caveats to reflect on in the aftermath. Britney S. Lewis did a fine job of writing a coming of age story with a metaphorical/strong-imagery shift on zombies and the manifestation of grief in the life of a teen girl who goes through a lot. "The Undead Truth of Us" had a lot on its plate to deal with as it showcases the experience of a girl named Zharie, or Z, who has lost her mom. In the days before her mom passed away though, Z experiences seeing her mother shift into a zombie, whereas no one else noticed the change. She's wondering how she was able to see her mother as a zombie and what led up to her death in the days before. Was her mother actually a zombie, or was their something else going on? Key question that the novel poses to answer through Z's recollection of events.
Having to uproot her life following her mother's death, Z ends up living with her aunt and relocating to an apartment complex, where she meets Bo Her, a biracial teen who takes a keen interest in Z while also having moved into the neighborhood. Problem is that Zharie also sees Bo as a zombie. There's no indication that he knows that he's shifting between forms, nor can anyone else see the other zombies in the way that Z can. I had a feeling that the zombie inclusion in this was in the manifestation that it was, not so much the whole "I die and zombify" way but more like it was a means of showcasing people who were close to death because of things that were going on in their lives. It made a lot of sense given what Z learns as she recalls events with her mother before her passing, and what Bo's going through as she gets to know him.
The imagery and narration that Lewis employs to show this zombification is very well done, and some scenes are quite creepy for description. I think what bothered me was that the pacing could have been a little tighter for the aim of the story as well as establishing that grief connection a little sooner. I think if we knew (the reader namely) that a little sooner than the text chose to answer it, it still would have had a solid impact. It's solid given what Z goes through in text and the challenge to her relationships. I wanted to fight Z's aunt in some turns, who in the midst of her own grief treats Z terribly. But there are moments of connection that are touched on in text that I'm glad they had. I'm also glad that it was very honest about the grief that Z goes through in not only the loss of her mother, but also the absence of her birth father, which is much more messy and complicated than I thought it would be when this story started. It makes sense that Zharie had to untangle and unpack a lot of truths to keep her own zombification from going full throttle.
It's a nice book and I'm glad that I was able to read it, though I think it could have tightened a few details for the sake of length. But as far as the overarching characters and connections, the exploration of grief and navigation of tough family issues, the imagery, and seeing Zharie and Bo connect through the thick of things, I found that to be solid throughout.
This YA coming-of-age novel is outside my usual go-to genres, and I loved it. It's more John Green than Michael Crichton, more Nicola Yoon than Octavia butler. Often you can find me down on the Crichton/Butler end of the spectrum, because I need a strong plot and a lot of fast-paced action to keep me turning the pages. I have the attention span of an ADHD-afflicted goldfish who's just come off his Ritalin. While this book doesn't have fast-paced action, it does have something else that really kept my interest.
It is wonderfully strange and very touching.
There is a constant sense of unease throughout the book. You never know exactly what's going to happen. The protagonist is so uncomfortable, and her POV is so peculiar, that you never know when someone's going to turn into a zombie or when vines are going to start growing out the the ground and wrapping around people's ankles. It's surprisingly surreal at times.
There's also a very strong emotional hook. The protagonist is Zharie, a 16 year old Black girl in Kansas City who dances West Coast Swing and sees zombies where nobody else does. In the first few pages, her mother dies (or more specifically, turns into a zombie and then dies). From then on we're in a world of Zharie's grief and peculiar, shifting perspective. It's strangely beautiful.
Are the zombies that Zharie sees real? Are they a manifestation of her grief? Is she crazy? Is she lying? Or is she simply lost in despair?
I don't think that author Britney S. Lewis actually ever explicitly tells you how Zharie feels. Instead, she deftly details Zharie's world in a way that implicitly shows the character's feelings. Every description of setting and character in this book gives the reader insight into the Zharie's intense emotional state. It's all uneasy sadness, laced with beauty, and it's spectacular.
Throughout Undead Truth there's also a kind of endearing, awkward humanity between the characters. (Hello, cute skater boy.) This portrayal of awkwardness is something I often associate with my favorite contemporary Japanese writing by women (Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto). It's charming because it shows people and their budding relationships in a very real and vulnerable, almost blundering light. It's sweet and feels true.
I definitely recommend The Undead Truth of Us. It's lyrical, beautiful, sad, touching, charmingly awkward and deeply satisfying.
(Note: I'm sure there are people bemoaning the fact that up above I actually mentioned Crichton and Butler in the same sentence, as though they are equivalent. Of course Butler is a consciousness-changing genius and multiple recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards, while Crichton is simply a master of entertainment and a peddler of interesting concepts, but I like them equally for different reasons. Don't shoot me.)
thank you Disney audiobooks for an ALC of this book
The audio narrator does an exquisite job at depicting the characters emotions when narrating. I could audibly hear Zharie's emotions and the way the dialog would build up and break down. Lewis does an incredible job at letting you inside Zharie's head and her thought process.
This is the kind of book I hope every young adult gets to read. There are so many great moments with dealing with grief, loss, and change. Zharie goes through many hard ships but Lewis also shows us these unique moments that you only experience in young adulthood. The camping trip had me all in my feels from just the nostalgia of these types of experiences with my high school friends.
Grief and loss are dealt in such a compassionate way that you but you also get to see the gritty details of Zharie's pain. The way Lewis depicts large moments with color association was so unique and added a lot of impact to the story. I don't know how I haven't mentioned ZOMBIES yet but as the story unfolds and you learn more about the zombies it makes you stop and think about all the zombies in your life.
This is such a beautiful book that also includes other YA novels like my personal favorite, Looking For Alaska. Once Lewis brings up John Green its hard to not compare the significance to her novel and Greens because the core of her book is what makes Green's books so good. Yes there is grief and loss, but there is also adventure, self discovery, and so much more in this story. Lewis's debut shows so many strengths and promise I can't wait to read everything else she writes.
If you have ever found yourself obsessed with a John Green novel this is for you. If not, this is still for you. There were also these moments of pure euphoria that reminded me of the same nostalgic feeling in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
I rarely listen to recommendations from bookstagram but the author of this one seems super cool and it’s published by Disney Hyperion! Every Disney Hyperion book I’ve ever read (The Screaming Staircase, Bad Girls Don't Die, When, etc) has been epic so I’m convinced they only publish the best of the best. Plus the concept here seems quite unique: slow burn romance with an unreliable narrator and... zombies? Now that seems like a fun blend of genres!
Emotional, beautiful, relatable. Made me grieve for someone that is not real nor in my real life. Teared up a few times most likely because i know the feeling Zharie felt for a few things, loss of a family member and dealing with someone who never wanted her in their life. The healing ways in this book is for sure eye opening and something we should all be thinking of doing once in while to heal our own self.
I truly loved the concept of this heartbreaking story.