I’d like to imagine that I’m above being influenced by a pretty, pretty, oh-so-pretty cover, but the truth is, I’m not. I’m susceptible to awesome, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Truthfully, upon spying this cover in my inbox for a cover reveal this past December, I just knew I had to read it based on the cover alone. (Because that always ends well, right? But…) What does the cover mean? Are these two separate girls? The same girl? Is it a literal representation of a character(s) or is figuratively showing the duality of an individual? Is it more complicated than that? I had to know.
FYI, I’m not giving you any answers in regard to those questions, but justsoyaknow, in relation to the story, the cover is pretty brilliant, and even better, the story between the covers lives up to the pretty. Er. Kinda. I mean zombie stories aren’t pretty… but I think you get my drift.
Soooo… my interest in undead brain munchers has been more of a recent thing, but my zombie-phase has lasted long enough to observe that most Z-stories are set up pretty much the same way. Infection spreads, people die, people reanimate with a craving for man (and woman)-burgers, insatiable hunger for human flesh propagates more infection, lots of death and reanimation until the country’s infrastructure completely collapses. Lots of canned food, sawed off shot guns, rotting flesh, and living people trying to avoid being bitten by their zombified friends and relations. That’s not to say zombie stories are all cut from the same cloth. Indeed, if a zombie-like virus ever did get unleashed into the general population, I could totally see it playing out as described above. But while this novel does have some of that, it makes a girl thankful when she runs across a story like Mortality that deviates a bit from the norm.
Spreading quickly from ground zero in Cleveland, Ohio, the zombie epidemic moves like wildfire throughout the United States. The public is panicked and fearful as the U.S. government works tirelessly to get a handle on the rising masses of undead. When it’s announced that a vaccine has been created that stops the zombie virus, people flock to get to get this miracle cure. However, as the saying goes… if a thing is too good to be true, it probably is, and it soon becomes clear that the vaccine has some rather… <ahem> unintended and interesting consequences. And in the midst of this terrifying, harsh and uncertain world she’s created, Sheridan simultaneously tells the separate stories of two girls – Savannah Cooper and Zarah Bhandari.
Savannah. Her parents killed in a zombie attack, Savannah is taken in a cared for by the surviving citizens of her hometown, New Ravencrest. Savannah, feeling guilt over not being able to save her parents, has become fierce, itching to kill the creatures who took her parents from her. Eager to prove her capability and desperate to make a difference, She’s thrown her energy into training to fight and survive against the Z’s so that one day she’ll be able to help protect her small community. Savvy is driven, determined, able to think on her feet, sarcastic, a little prickly, and has a tendency to be a tad dangerously impulsive; but she demonstrates just enough insecurity and vulnerability through her first person narrative to likable and sympathetic. But perhaps her most admirable quality is her willingness to put others first and her determination not to merely survive, but to live… and Cole, the intriguing stranger who’s wandered into New Ravencrest, gives her an opportunity to fulfill her need to make a difference.
Zarah. As much as I like Savannah, I love Zarah. Living in Cleveland, Zarah has a terrifyingly horrific front row seat to the first outbreak, and together with her classmate (and crush) Liam, her only goal becomes survival as they try to flee the zombie-infested city.
Quiet, a bit nerdy and completely unprepared for zombies, I connected instantly with Zarah. Savannah is totally cool and kickbutt, but Zarah is more of a relatable every-girl character, and her arc throughout this novel, is undoubtedly my favorite part of Mortality. Her transformation from nerd girl to where Sheridan takes her at the end of the novel is some fantastic character development. Plus, Liam? Um… excuse me while I swoon.
I just wish Zarah had been given slightly more page time. Savannah’s narrative compromises about 2/3 of the book, while Zarah’s story is told in the other third. But that’s just me wanting more of my favorite character. In reality, the pacing and frequency of Zarah’s story is pretty close to perfect. Like I said, I just want more.
Cole. Optimistic, charming, earnest, driven by purpose and conviction, Cole has a mission to complete, and he’s convinced Savannah is the girl to help him do it. In a world so overrun by tragedy, despair and hopelessness, Cole is a breath of fresh air. Not that he’s been untouched by tragedy, but his hopefulness is infectious and help circumstances seem just a little less… bad.
World. The world is pretty thoroughly laid out, and though it is developed pretty much according to the typical Z-description I gave above in the introduction, it’s not stale. The dissolution of the US government and infrastructure is pretty much a certainty. Different groups of the living rising up in place of a centralized government? Definitely plausible. And these little self-governed pockets of humanity are fascinating, as each have their own goals, rules, and levels of… friendliness. When you’re fighting for survival, peoples’ true natures tend to reveal themselves – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s just a great representation of how things could realistically play out in the event of a real life epidemic… zombie or otherwise.
Story. The dual perspective narration, the unique little twists Sheridan uses to create her zombie lore, and the overall vibe of danger and unease she builds steadily throughout the novel makes Mortality pretty page-turning. Strong characters kept me invested, a strong world kept me intrigued, the characters’ journeys as they set out to complete their various goals kept me entertained, and the ending left me grabby-handing for the next book. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Overall. Mortality is sure to satisfy any zombie lover’s craving for a good Z-book. <nom nom nom>