Alice Bell isn’t allowed out after dark. Her crazy, paranoid father will not permit it; he believes there are monsters out there just waiting to pick his family off. Until one night, her birthday, she persuades her parents to let her sister go to her dance recital, which finishes after sunset. What harm can it do? But that night she loses everything.

Supposedly inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the only links seem to be a girl called Alice, a cloud shaped like a rabbit and erm, a friend called Kat who sometimes grins. I think I was expecting more of a retelling or something, instead it seems to be a title designed to sell books. Plus the z-word isn’t even mentioned until page 175 which kind of ruins some of the suspense. The title in itself prevents you from doubting her “crazy” father from the start.

But that’s not the main problem with the book for me. If you’re going to deviate from the traditional with supernatural creatures, you have to spend time creating a believable mythology. If your zombies are just the walking dead then fine, we can just use our prior knowledge to fill in the gaps. Instead, Gena Showalter tries to make them a bit different and the result is a bit of a mess. She contradicts herself in what they are, the ending is impossible if you believe the explanation for how the dead can be reanimated. I also felt that the “special powers” were a bit silly and the book was trying to do too many things at once.

Oddly enough, I really enjoyed the high school part of it; strip the zombies and powers away and it becomes a reasonable contemporary story. The concept of the jocks not being at the top of the pecking order because the bad boys have some sort of feared respect was something I’d like to have seen more of. There’s Kat’s struggle between wanting to be popular and wanting to be content in her life; cast out when she’s with the wrong boy but allowed back in when she comes to her senses.

Of course there’s a good girl meets bad boy story at the heart of it, which is enjoyable enough. The friendship between Alice and Kat is the best part. There wasn’t really enough emotion at the start when she loses her family though. The addition of Justin didn’t really make a love triangle; he seemed a bit of a clumsy add-on, created as a vehicle for the plot and nothing else.

Alice in Zombieland is published by MIRA Ink and is now available in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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