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Better Off Undead
by James Preller
Adrian Lazarus has always felt like an outcast. But now that he’s dead, life gets even worse. Even though Adrian does not have a beating heart, he still feels the pain of people talking behind his back. When the school bully, Daryl, decides to target him, Adrian isn’t sure what to do. Then a mysterious girl, a beekeeping boy, and a seventh-grade sleuth enter his life. Can his friends help Adrian stay safe?
Now that Adrian is a zombie, he notices that the world is changing. Forest fires burn, super-flues spread, and bees vanish. While advertisements claim everyone is safe, Adrian and his friends are worried. Is there anything they can do to help the earth?
Better of Undead takes a humorous look at the inside of a junior high school and explores the need to fit in. When the school bully targets Adrian, he and his friends come up with an interesting way to stop the bullying. As Adrian suffers through junior high, he learns that being beautiful isn’t important. It’s what inside that matters. He also realizes that he does not have to let his zombie instincts take over.
Adrian tells his story in a humorous way that will make readers laugh. At the end of the story, the action slows as the author reinforces the messages. One message is that the environment is changing and you should do something about it. The danger of having personal data mined is also shown.
- Daryl, the school bully, pushes a girl and then hits Adrian in the face. “He turned away from me, head ducking down, then turned back and landed a sharp, compact punch to my face.”
- Gia talks about all of the bad things that have happened. “Outside Quebec, massive fireballs incinerated part of a town. Thirty buildings melted into a thick greasy mass. Cars burned like crumpled paper. Forty-seven people died, and five of those bodies were never found. They were vaporized by the sudden blast of radiant heat.”
- Adrian found a dead squirrel outside of his house and ate it. “A fresh kill, blood still leaking from its nose, but otherwise not too shabby.”
- Adrian is taken to see a man who is interested in learning about Adrian’s condition. When a bodyguard tries to block his path, he thinks about biting him. “I felt a surge of power inside me that was beyond myself. It was something other, and greater, than my ordinary being . . . My eyes locked on the vein in the bodyguard’s neck. As I was about to attack, teeth bared. . . “
- In order to trick the school bully, Adrian and his friend stage a fight at a school dance. “Adrian grabbed Zander by the shoulder, spun him around, and landed a right cross to his face. Zander fell backwards . . .” The two are kicked out of the dance and meet in the woods. “Zander charged forward, tackling me to the ground. . . Zander gained the advantage and viciously kicked me in the stomach . . . I leaped on Zander’s fallen body . . . I burst a large packet of fake blood that had been planted inside Zander’s shirt. While Zander shrieked in agony, my two hands tore up the string of sausage that had been hidden in the hollow. They dripped with bloody sauce.”
- A doctor wants to run experiments on Adrian. In order to get him to agree, Adrian’s little brother and Adrian’s friends are kidnapped and held hostage. In order to escape, Zander “was punching the bodyguard on the head . . . The guard shrugged him off and with one backhanded blow swatted Zander to the ground . . . He snarled and gave me a two-handed shove that propelled me into the window. My forehead cracked against the thick pane.” When the house catches on fire, everyone is able to escape.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Pretty Pillz are mentioned several times. The Pillz claim to make everyone beautiful. “It’s as easy as swallowing a pill.”
- Profanity is used rarely, but includes: jerkwads, school butt, hell, and damn.
- A kids at the smells the air near Adrian and says, “Stinks in here, don’t it? I mean, crap, it’s totally disgusting.”
- A kid at school threatens to kick Adrian’s butt. When someone tells him to stop, the kid says, “Who. . . in the hell . . . are you?”
- After being hit, Adrian yells, “Get out of here now or I’ll fire-trucking eat your brains! Only I didn’t say ‘fire-trucking.’ Because, like, who would? Is it even a word? No, I said a different f-word, one that I have heard before, plenty of times (I used to ride the school bus, after all).”
- “Oh my God” is said several times. When told a story, Adrian replies, “Oh my God.”
- Adrian dies when hit by a car. He describes himself as a “shuffler, ankle-dragger, shape-shifter, howler, freak. I am a living dad, soulless corpse, brain-sucker, crawler, spitter, wraith, wuss, dumb butt, flailer, mutant, haunt.”
- Gia, who is allergic to bees, was stung by a swarm of them. “I woke up. I was alive, and I wasn’t supposed to be alive. . . That’s when I saw her, the queen bee. She sat on my chest, and I swear, Adrian, we regarded each other in perfect silence, like equals. . . And she spoke.” The queen bee told Gia, “It all connects.”