Dearly, Departedwill forever be remembered as the novel that made me fall in love with zombies. I’m actually not a very big fan of zombies. At all. Much like my fear of heights, which unexpectedly showed up one day the first time I attempted rock climbing, I’m not sure where my zombie fear came from. One night I was re-watching 28 Days Later, and then next thing I knew, I was terrified, and having re-occurring zombie nightmares on a regular basis.
Dearly, Departed definitely has it’s freakier moments–and quite a few straight up nasty scenes–but the love story surrounding it all is so cute and refreshing, it’s easy for a zombie-phobic girl like me to overlook.
The story starts out a bit slow. Lots of background info is given about the protagonist Nora, her recently deceased father, and their futuristic world. But Habel doesn’t fall into the usual debut author traps, so it never feels info-dumpy. Thankfully after Nora’s world is introduced, the action really picks up around chapter 4, and even more so once Nora first encounters zombies.
The action does irregularly jump around from multiple points of view, which can be jarring and get confusing at first. But I also managed to get used to that aspect after a few chapters, after I “got to know” who each of the characters were.
Once Nora is abducted, and begins to interact with the ragtag band of zombie army men and women, the story really hits its stride. The secondary characters have amazing, hilarious personalities, and the camaraderie between them is endearing. I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions.
And the boys? When discussing this book with a fellow blogger friend via twitter, I, much to the amusement of Lia Habel herself, described the male characters of Dearly, Departed as boys “so hot, you’ll forget they are rotting!”.
Obviously, it helps to have a story full of plenty of hotties. Yet it’s the interaction between Nora and Bram, the love interest that really won me over. Their slowly developing (and strangely realistic considering one of them IS DEAD!) love is adorable. Nora is a strong, kick ass protagonist, and independent woman. But with Bram, she really begins to come into her own, and discover who she really is, and what she truly believes in.
I can’t remember the last book that had me giggling, and squeeing like a 12-year-old schoolgirl this much. (Actually, there was one book that similarly affected me, last year—Anna and the French kiss.) Everything from brushes of arms, to sniffing the shirt of the boy you like, to the eventual first kiss was both realistic, and adorable. Seriously, this story can only be described as epicly cute.
In the beginning, Nora thinks Bram is downright disgusting and terrifying. Lia Habel is such an amazing writer, who understands the psychology and motivations behind her characters, that you get exactly why Nora would become attracted to Bram, and find yourself falling in love with him much in the same way. There are dozens of books where teenage girls fall in love with the undead, weirdos, and just plain freaky men that just leave you shaking your head and asking “WHAT?!”. Never have I seen fear and disgust lead so naturally to true love.
Other things I liked: this book had some of the best and most original world building of anything I’ve ever read. It’s steam-punky, but without alienating people who might not be into the Victorian era and clockworks. (I admit I’ve only read a few steam punk short stories, but found my limited exposure to the genre to be weirdly repetitive.) The Neo-Victorian futuristic world Nora lives in is fully developed, and seems 100% logical considering the back-story that led to its creation.
Overall Dearly, Departed was an adorable, unique love story and survival tale that captivated me from page one. Lia Habel, a first time author (who FYI is just as adorable as this book!), has earned a place on my “auto buy” list. I wanted to re-read Dearly, Departed as soon as I finished. And of course, it’s safe to say I am now “dying” for the sequel.
Dearly, Departed will be released on October 18, 2011.
Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with an ARC for review.