Recommended for ages 12+
Caitlin Fletcher and her wonderkid sister, Natalie, have moved to London with their dad to try and start their lives over. Caitlin’s and Natalie’s mom disappeared four years ago, and Caitlin suffers from severe anxiety, and starting over at a new school, where the mean girls have no qualms about letting Caitlin know she doesn’t measure up, is causing more anxiety than ever. The one bright spot is Jack, the super-cute boy at school who’s been friendly to her and invites her to a school dance, but a phone mixup lands Caitlin alone, in a cemetery, where she falls down the proverbial rabbit hole and lands in a fairy tale universe! The only drawback is, in this universe, all of the inhabitants are blood-eyed zombies, living under a strange curse. The fairy tale princesses we all know and love – Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty – have been sent to find Caitlin, because she holds the key to restoring order in their world and saving her own. But how is Caitlin, who’s two steps away from a panic attack, supposed to save an entire world, let alone herself?
Where do kids go after Goosebumps? Right here. This first book in a new series is a great way to ease younger horror fans into the zombie genre. The horror is slightly ramped up, with gorier descriptions of the living dead princesses and inhabitants of the fairy tale world, and there are allusions to zombies doing what zombies do best – Cinderella has to be yelled at to stop sniffing at Caitlin on a few occasions – but we’re not leaping into full-on gore and horror just yet. The secondary characters are familiar; we’ve grown up with them and heard about them for generations, so readers will get a kick out of this latest twist on the fractured fairy tale genre. There’s just enough romance to keep middle school girls happy, especially if they like their adventure light on the romance and heavy on the action.
Related to the book and mentioned in the story is the site, UnexplainableNews.com, a tabloid site the kids love checking out and aspire writing for. Direct your readers here (and check it out yourself) for some fun “news videos” on the zombie sightings happening all over the world that garner mention in the book.
Once Upon a Zombie is good fun for readers who love things that go bump in the night, but are ready to be just slightly more scared. Shelve it with a display of Monster High books!