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What We’re Reading: Zombie Baseball Beatdown

Post by Rebecca Honeycutt
Posted September 17, 2013 in NoveList Bookshelf, NoveList Plus

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Zombie Baseball Beatdown

by Paolo Bacigalupi

“...I didn't want anyone dead. I didn't even want anyone to hurt. Not even when Mr. Cocoran tried to eat my brains.”

Rabi Chatterjee-Jones and his best friends Miguel and Joe live in a small Iowa town where nearly everyone works for Milrow Meat Solutions, a corrupt, profit-hungry meat-packing plant. When Rabi and his friends discover that the chemical treatments and filthy conditions at Milrow are turning both cows and humans into zombies, they suddenly find themselves on the first line of defense against the zombie apocalypse.

I'll admit it: I was skeptical at first. Paolo Bacigalupi is best known for his Printz-winning dystopian YA novel Ship Breaker, a vividly imagined but brutal book with decidedly dark themes. So when I heard that he'd written a comedy-horror book for kids, I had doubts. But Zombie Baseball Beatdown has made me a believer. The combination of heavy issues (such as racism, bullying, and food safety) with gross-out zombie hijinks is no easy feat, but Bacigalupi manages it with flair. Through Rabi's straightforward yet snarky narration, readers are exposed to horrors both fantastical and all-too-real. (In one stomach-turning scene, the boys witness still-mooing zombie cows being slaughtered and packaged, and Joe remarks, "I'm okay with zombie burgers, but pink slime? That's going too far.") Indeed, what's most chilling about this story is not the undead, flesh-eating monsters, but the cold-hearted corporate greed that makes their existence possible.

Kids will devour Zombie Baseball Beatdown for its brisk pace, offbeat humor, and gleefully gruesome action, but they'll be chewing on its thought-provoking social commentary long after they turn the last page.

-- Recommended by Rebecca Honeycutt