The absolute last thing goth-girl Raven and her vampire boyfriend, Alexander, need is another hitch in their nighttime-only romance—but dark trouble hovers on the horizon when Raven and Alexander discover four freshly dug graves filled with empty coffins. When a crew of sketchy vampires takes up residence in Dullsville’s lonely graveyard, Alexander finds this motley bunch led by his very own blood-sucking cousin, Claude Sterling. Shocking! Claude and his creepy crew can only spell out more problems for the pair, especially when Raven finds them in daylight in the very last place she could ever imagine. What could Claude and his invaders be doing—or searching for—in Dullsville?
Blood Relatives is based on a YA vampire romance novel that falls under the Vampire Kisses umbrella. Readers will find that the graphic novel Blood Relatives does not follow the same plot as any of the other novels. However, while Blood Relatives is extremely short and lacking in plot, it introduces all of the main characters and villains.
Even though Blood Relatives focuses on Raven and the vampire Alexander’s relationship, Alexander spends most of his time trying to keep Raven safe. However, she is determined to find answers to the mystery, even if that means putting herself in danger. While teens may like the protective Alexander, some of the plot is unrealistic, such as when Alexander’s cousin Claude drags Raven down the school’s hallway and grabs her hair, but none of the students or teachers notice the abuse. In addition, no one questions why four new students, who are all the same age, enroll in school on the same day.
Readers will enjoy the manga artwork, especially Raven’s fashionable goth clothes which include skull barrettes. While most of the black and white artwork is beautiful, some of the pictures do not feel finished. For example, in one picture Raven is crying but her eyes are empty and her face is poorly sketched. In addition, in one picture a “Cool Pax” is magically staying over her eye. Each page has eleven or fewer words. While some of the text is in quote bubbles, other text is printed in black with a white border that makes the text difficult to read.
The simple plot and vocabulary make the graphic novel a quick read. If you’re looking for well-developed characters and a unique plot, Blood Relatives will be a disappointment. However, if you want to bite into a vampire romance that is pure entertainment, add Blood Relatives to your reading list. Make sure you have the second book in the series ready because the first installment ends with a cliffhanger.
- Raven kisses her vampire boyfriend three times. “One night at the mansion we sealed our date with a heart-meltingly passionate kiss.”
- While at school, Raven walks by two kids kissing in the hallway.
- Raven runs away from a group of vampires that want to get information from her. One of the vampires grabs Raven by the hair and says, “like perhaps, at your house. . . for a midnight snack.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- A group of half-mortal, half-vampires are looking for vials filled “with centuries-old pure vampire blood.” The blood would make them complete vampires.
Welcome to Kersville, a town with a spooky history and a collection of ghosts and spirits who are major mischief-makers. Most kids spend their days without ever seeing or dealing with a ghost, but some kids get stuck with a haunt. When that happens, they call Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol. There’s no job too spooky, icky, or risky for Desmond.
Andres Miedoso is not like that at all. He’s Desmond’s best friend and ghost patrol partner. Desmond Cole and he are excited to go on a field trip to the zoo. They have planned out each and every exhibit they want to go to. They want to make sure they see all the animals. When the field trip day comes, they head to the back of the zoo. But when they see a zombie feeding the giraffes, their plan goes out the window. Instead of enjoying the animals, they’re chasing a zombie.
When it comes to Desmond Cole and Andres, they are opposites. Desmond wants to chase after the zombie, while Andres wants to run in the other direction. Readers will love the two boys who chase the zombie around the zoo. The story has suspense, humor, and a little bit of gross factor—the zombie accidentally dumps goo on Andres. Even though the story features a zombie, it is not scary. Instead, Desmond and Andres discover that zombies make great zookeepers. After all, zombies “don’t mind cleaning up the really stinky number twos! Also, zombies are never grossed out by the slimy, icky food they have to feed the animals.”
Night of the Zombie Zookeeper is the fourth installment in the Desmond Cole series, however, none of the books need to be read in order. The story is told in nine short chapters with easy-to-read vocabulary which is perfect for emerging readers. A black-and-white illustration appears on almost every page. The often humorous illustrations use exaggerated facial expressions so readers can tell what the characters are feeling. Readers will laugh as Desmond and Andres find themselves in unexpected situations. Readers who enjoy Night of the Zombie Zookeeper should also try the Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings.
Drugs and Alcohol
- A zombie goes underneath water without scuba gear.
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.”
When the monster apocalypse hit Jack’s town, the thirteen-year-old retreated to his tree house. Everyone Jack knows has either run away or been zombified. Jack has been living in his tree house, which he’s armed to the teeth with catapults and a mote. Living on Oreos and Mountain Dew, Jack spends his time playing video games and scavenging stores.
Jack realizes that he can’t handle zombies, Winged Wretches, and Vine Thingies alone. He goes out to search for his best friend, Quint. Along the way he finds a team comprised of a reformed bully named Dirk, a pet monster, and a girl named June (who becomes Jack’s love interest).
Surviving a monster apocalypse will be difficult; however, life gets more dangerous when the intelligent gargantuan menace known as the Blarg sets his sights on Jack. He will need his entire team to defeat the monster.
Told from Jack’s point of view, the monster apocalypse comes to life with humor. Jack’s desire to care for his friends is clear. When Jack searches for June in the hopes of rescuing her, he discovers that she is a strong character that doesn’t need a knight in shining armor. Black and white illustrations add to the story. For a book filled with monsters, the story is more fun than frightening. Packed with action, The Last Kids on Earth will engage readers from the first page to the last.
- June Del Toro is Jack’s “love interest”. When introducing her, Jack says, she has “legs that just won’t quit (no idea what that means, I’ve heard it in a movie. I guess her legs are resilient?)”
- Jack finds June in the school building. “In the dim light, I can make out that it’s June. Hey, I just used ‘make out’ and ‘June’ in the same sentence. Go me!”
- Jack and his friend discuss if it is possible to “call dibs” on a girl.
- A monster tries to smash Jack. The battle is described over several pages. “The monster’s massive fist pounds the roof until it cracks like thin ice. I trip, tumble back, and land hard on my bony butt .” When the monster smiles, he reveals “an army of dirty fangs, with chunks of flesh between each tooth.” When Jack hits the monster over the head, the monster drops him and Jack gets free.
- A monster grabs the school bus. “The monster tilted the bus so the back pointed toward the sky. We all pinballed, plummeting down the aisle, smashing against the seats, backpacks flying through the air.” Jack and his best friend escape. The fate of the other occupants on the bus is not mentioned.
- Zombies come after Jack. The zombie’s “throat is missing—just a bunch of gnarly old flesh there. He comes at me, practically jumping.” Jack whacks the zombie in the face with a hockey stick.
- A monster eats a zombie. “He roars and shoves the undead thing into his mouth. As he chews, the sound of the poor zombie’s snapping ones echoes across the empty suburban street.”
- A flying monster almost gest Jack. Dirk saves him. “Dirk hurls the Winged Wretch into the closest building . . . The monster lets off a pained howl, then flies off into the distance. . . “
- A Blarg attacks. “Blarg’s like a tank, crushing cars and stomping shopping carts beneath his feet.” Jack and Dir use butter to make the monster crash.
- June throws tennis balls at the zombies, who used to be her teachers. Later, the zombies attack the kids and there is a fight that is complete with illustrations. The fight goes on for several pages.
- The Blarg attacks the kids. Jack uses a sling shot to fling an acid capsule into the Blarg’s eye. “A demonic howl erupts from Blarg’s lungs. He paws at his face, trying to wipe away the sizzling chemical mixture.” When the Blarg chases the kids, they throw a big-screen TV at him. The battle against the Blarg last for three chapters. Jack kills the Blarg with a “Louisville Slicer.” The monster “howls. I’m dangling from the blade, gripping tight, as the monster’s legs give out and he comes crashing down.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Jack calls a monster a jerk. Later he thinks, “I hate jerks—whether they’re monster jerks or zombie jerks or just regular human jerks.”
- Jack says “crud” several times. When a monster tries to hit Jack, he thinks, “oh crud.” When the monster is looking for Jack, he says, “holy crud.”
- Dirk calls Jack a dork.
Life couldn’t get much better for 13-year-old Jack Sullivan. He eats Twinkie sandwiches for breakfast, lives in a cool treehouse, has a hoard of monster friends, and battles zombies. Jack loves his life with his friends and wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Then Jack and his friends discover they may not be the last kids on earth. When a human voice comes from a radio, everyone except for Jack is excited to discover that others have survived the zombie apocalypse. June and the others hope to be reunited with their parents, but Jack is afraid that finding others will lead to his friends forgetting about him. Jack goes on a quest to prove that their life is crazy, fun, and perfect.
As jack creates crazy fun activities for his friends, a monstrous Nightmare King hunts Jack and his friends. Jack soon learns that an ancient evil will use any method necessary to gain Jack’s loyalty and help him come into Jack’s world.
The Last Kids on Earth and The Nightmare King is another action-packed book that will keep readers entertained. New complications and new monsters are introduced to keep the plot interesting. The story shows a diverse group of friends who work together to defeat monsters. Although each character may seem stereotypical at first—the brainiac, the bully, the damsel—each character is fully developed and reveal that a person cannot be put into a category. For example, June is not a damsel in distress, but a strong girl who is capable of contributing to the group.
Although there is violence, the kids spend most of their time running from the monsters. The battle scenes contain humor and are not frightening. In the end, the story reminds readers that it often takes both kids and monsters to defeat evil.
- June and Jack are playing a game. June asks Jack, “Which prize would you like honey?” Jack knows she is teasing him, “but I don’t care; I like hearing her call me honey—it makes my belly region warm.”
- Zombies attack the group. Dirk uses his strength to grab the zombies and “corpses catapulted.”
- A King Wretch swoops and tries to grab Jack. “I smack into the street, flipping and flopping like a fish. My nose cracks against my knee, and I immediately feel blood bubbling inside my nostrils.” The monster grabs Rover, “dragging Rover across the pavement. The sound of pained scraping fills my ears while dread floods my stomach.”
- A Scrapken (an octopus-like creature who lives in the junk yard) uses his tentacles to try to smash the kids. Instead, the Scrapken hits a wall and Zombies rush into the junk yard. “Thankfully, the next tentacle swing slams into a tire pile, and about nine hundred ninety-nine pounds of rubber plow into the zombies. Some are knocked aside, and others are sent pinwheeling through the air.”
- In order to get away from zombies, Jack hides in a car. Before the zombies can get to Jack, the Scrapken picks up the car. “It’s chocking the metal frame like an anaconda—tightening and squeezing and crushing!” Then the Scrapken throws the car. Jack has “aches and pains and bruises, but nothing major.”
- The King Wretch saves Jack from Zombies. “With one massive, snapping chomp, the King Wretch devours a dozen zombies. A simple swallow, sucking them down.” The King Wretch then grabs Jack. “His talons punch me square in the chest. I hit the cold floor and the claws tighten, digging into my shoulders. Hot saliva drips from the King Wretch’s fangs and splashes against my cheek.” The King Wretch then hypnotizes Jack.
- While riding a rollercoaster, The King Wretch grabs Jack. “The flying beast snaps out with his talons, tearing into my hoodie and knocking me back.” Jack’s hoodie tears and, “I plummet downward for a short moment, and then all I feel is PAINFUL AWFUL TREE-LIM-BREAKING-SMASHING ON MY BONES!” Jacks friends come to save him and there is a battle that last over several chapters. In the end the King Wretch is eaten by the Scrapken. “Slithery serpent sounds and then, at last, the King Wretch goes silent. The Scrapken hugs him anaconda tight, squeezing, crushing, and then they disappear beneath the scrap, into the ground . . .”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Jack occasionally says “crud.”
- The King Wretch hypnotizes Jack and gives him visions of what the future may be like. When the King Wretch looks into Jack’s eyes, “Soda bubbles in my brain. . . I feel like a tornado of terrible energy whirls past me. Through me... and then everything is altered”
A strange shrieking. Disappearing Zombies. New monsters appearing. Jack and his three friends keep hearing an eerie shrieking that summons the zombies. They are determined to discover where the zombies are going. Along the way, they encounter a giant Wormungulous, a pizza parlor monster hideout, an ancient evil who destroys worlds, and a stereo system that is totally the bomb.
The mystery of the strange shrieking isn’t the only problem Jack is facing. As a foster kid, Jack never had the chance to make friends. The monster apocalypse changed that. Now that he has a family, he wonders if he can trust them to stay alive on their own. He worries about all of the what-ifs—what if they get hurt? Or eaten? Or chopped up? Or zombified? Can Jack learn to trust his friends and allow them to help him stay safe?
In the end, Jack realizes that “Friends are important. Family is important. . . But even a post-apocalyptic action hero can’t keep them safe all the time.” He also learns that not all monsters are wicked and that battling together is the only way to defeat evil.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade is told in the same humorous tone as the first book in the series. Each of the kids is given unique talents and is shown to be strong in different ways. The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade will be a hit with readers of all ages.
- A Wormungulous lives in the mall and chases the kids. Jack hits the monster with a boomerang. “There’s a BLAST as smoke bombs and bang snaps and sparklers explode. The monster jerks to the left, veers band to the right. . . “ Jack and Quint are able to escape.
- Later the Womungulous finds the kids and gives chase. Jack sticks the monster with a blade. “The monster shrieks in pain and its thick tail whips into me . . . I slam into the side of PacSun.” A man-monster pushes the kids out of the way.
- A Hairy-Eyeball Monster attacks the Jack and Quint. The monster fires quills at the kids. One of the quills pins Quill to a headstone.
- Zombies follow a strange shrieking noise. The kids follow, trying to figure out where the zombies are going, they see “undead bodies soar through the air like they’ve been launched from a catapult . . . We watch as limp zombie bodies pound the cement like mortar shells.” The zombie’s brains had been sucked out.
- A Winged Wretch attacks. “The monster’s razor-sharp talons grab the zombie by the shoulders . . . the Winged Wretch beats its wing and thrust upward, into the sky.”
- The kids find strange insects that combine to make a huge creature. “. . . The insects begin to gather themselves. Amassing, assembling, joining together to form something nightmarish . . . I try to run, but the horror in front of me is too much . . .” Dirk saves Jack.
- The zombies follow a strange shrieking sound. “As each zombie stumbles into the clearing, the tree’s branches move and shift. The branches snap and reach down in a series of chilling, herky-jerky movements. . . The branches open at the end, like ferocious wooden mouths—and they inhale the zombies.”
- The Wormungulous chases Jack into a cage. “It’s wrapping around the cage like an oversized, ultra-awful anaconda . . . I feel like I’m in the trash compactor in Star Wars.” The monster’s energy runs out and Jack realizes that the Wormungulous has a festering wound and needs help.
- Thrull, a giant monster, grabs Jack and throws him through the treehouse wall. “Wood splinters and shatters. A second later I crash-land into a pile of leaves.” When Dirk tries to help Jack, “Thrull backhands him—a slap that sends Dirk sprawling into Rover so that they both land in a heap.” Thrull puts the kids in a cage and takes them to the Tree of Entry. When Thrull is eaten by the tree, he turns into a monster.
- The kids unite with monsters to defeat Thrull the Tree Beast. The battle is described over several pages. Jack is swallowed by Thrull the Tree Beast. “Thrull the Tree Beast shrieks! Wood snaps and cracks around me. At my feet, jutting out of the barrel, the bottle rocket burns . . . The trunk of the tree shatters completely. . . My body is rocked—a title wave of explosive energy rips through me, hurling me from the inside of the tree.” In the end, Jack is saved when the kids defeat Thrull the Tree Beast with weed killer and bottle rockets.
Drugs and Alcohol
- The children are tricked into completing a bestiary. “I have filled the bestiary with magical energy. When the bestiary is full, the essence of the creatures inside will transform the book into a key.” The key will be used to let an ancient monster into the world, which wants to feed on others.
- Thrull plants vines that turn into a Tree of Entry. The tree feeds an ancient monster. Trull must complete an incantation in order to bring the ancient monster to this world.
- Thrull sacrifices himself to the tree. “He cackles like a mad, giggling demon and gives me a final look before his eyes shut and her roars, ‘TAKE ME.’” The Viney-Thinks eat Thrull.