I’m just going to put this out there from the start. I hate zombies. I find it a dry and overdone trope. I try to avoid anything with zombies as a rule because it just makes my eyes cross. They neither scare nor intrigue me. I just am not a fan of zombies.
That being said every rule has its exceptions. MY LIFE AS A WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE is now one of those exceptions.
This is the first book in a series by Diane Rowland that came out a few years ago. I picked it up on a whim since I’ve been in the mood for good stories with an undertone of comical absurdity. I’ve been finding some really good series that match this. Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series has now been added to the list.
The main character Angel Crawford is a grade-A loser from the swamps of southern Louisiana with a pill habit, a criminal record, and a deadbeat alcoholic father. After waking up from an apparent overdose Angel’s life gets turned around by a mysterious note that promises a job. A job she can’t mess up for a month or else she’ll be sent to jail.
So the job is as a van driver for the parish morgue, anyone surprised? She also assists with autopsies which put her in direct contact with brains. Human brains that for some reason now smell simply amazing to Angel. Add in a serial killer who dispatches their victims by cutting off their heads, conveniently the best method of killing a zombie.
It’s pretty obvious early on what Angel has been turned into even without the title as the dead give away but Angel herself does take a while to get with the program. As a reader, I was rolling my eyes at her obtuse theories but to be honest not many would jump straight into ‘Oh god! I’m a brain-eating Zombie! With a capital Z!’ Also, they added to her character well and rounded her out a good deal but the whole figuring it out gets dragged out a tad too long for my liking but overall it could have been worse.
Not to say she’s the dumb (fake) blonde everyone thinks she is. Angel picks up on things most others don’t. Rowland writes her as a perfect mix of smart and spacy. She has an eye for detail which helps with all the recent suspicious deaths in the parish. Rowland makes these observations sit somewhere between blatantly obvious that you wonder how all the cops on the scene even tied their own laces and Sherlock level connection. It’s a nice balance.
As for the serial killer terrorizing their small Louisanna town, Rowland does a great job of leaving the reader guessing. The reveal at the end is a great surprise even to those that figured out who the killer was beforehand. I love me some supernatural serial killer plotlines and I was very happy about this one.
Angel’s also an extremely likable character while displaying her flaws. From the beginning, Angel feels like a real person, or as real a person as one would find in a zombie novel.
Rowland’s does a great job of flipping the zombie script on its head in two different ways. The first is having the zombie as the main character. A few stories and movies have done this before like Warm Bodies, but I can’t think of any that has done it in this manner. Zombies in her world operate the same way a vampire or werewolf does. They are turned and can with regular meals of human brains can be a functioning part of society. Without those brains, they become feral similar to a vampire or werewolf except that’s the only time a zombie starts to rot. Flesh off bones and all that fun stuff. The second way she flips the script is that the main character and only main character of this zombie story is female. There must be some out there but I can’t think of any in pop culture. It’s good to see.
Overall the pace of the story is a bit on the slow side until you hit about 2/3rds of the way in. It wasn’t so slow that I threw this book in my donate pile but not fast enough that I devoured it from start to finish. Most first books in urban fantasy series, I’ve noticed, tend to be like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s because of the whole world-building within the world we know thing that does it. It’s something I try to remember when starting a new series.
The characters were interesting enough. Especially the two background character cops that I did constantly mix up which might have been a me thing. There was also a good dose of reality checks from one of Angel’s co-workers Nick who hated her for getting the job without so much as trying. Nick can be a bit much at times, well, most of the time but he’s a good way to ground the story back to reality. Characters in stories like this never second guess why something just kind of fell into the main character’s lap. A lot of urban fantasies, especially from the mid-2000s, have a bad habit of building their interpersonal relationships around the main character.
There is a tiny bit of a romance in this book with Angel and a Detective Marcus Ivanov. Rowland does a great job throughout most of the book to leave you guessing whether Detective Ivanov is actually on Angel’s side or will out to get her. I would have loved more interaction with the attractive detective she starts crushing on but I feel like if I keep reading the series I’ll get what I want. Meaning, I think he will be Angel’s love interest.
I do have to label this book with a few trigger warnings besides the pill-popping and alcohol abuse. There is a heavy scene where her father gets violent with her. There are also flashbacks of her mother physically abusing her when she was younger. They are detailed but do only last a few pages total.
Overall I wasn’t completely in love and obsessed with this story from the beginning but was pleasantly surprised by how much I did enjoy it. It had a weird pace but an interesting main character as well as side characters. It wasn’t as comically absurd as I was hoping but was still funny and witty at times. Solid three stars out of five and worth continuing the series.
Definitely a good book to pair with DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY by Laura Resnick. We’ll be reviewing that next week. Stay tuned.