Sadly, on most major review sites it’s simply not feasible to give a book more than five stars. Otherwise, this book would qualify for a few extra, just for its greatness.
On the surface, Warm Bodies (Emily Bestler Books – Atria), which will be releasing as a major motion picture on February 1st, looks just like a fun diversion, maybe a mindless beach read about a zombie who falls in love with a human girl. Sure, there are darker elements such as the humans’ struggle for survival after whatever curse or virus has been unleashed, turning all people who die into zombies, and the Gothic horror element of “debraining,” in which your close friends will remove your brain in the event of your death, just to keep you from becoming one of the undead. But this is still a ZomRom, after all, a light-hearted romantic comedy about zombies.
No, it’s not. It’s actually a masterfully crafted retelling of Romeo & Juliet, complete with barely obscured name changes for all of the major characters and a heart-breaking scene in which “R” bites and infects a guard in Julie’s compound after gaining her trust and her love, reminiscent of Romeo’s slaughter of Tybalt only minutes after exiting the church where he married Juliet. Without being too obvious, the storyline fits nicely alongside Shakespeare’s plot, while still managing to be as comedic as Shakespeare was, too.
Zombies wake up unable to remember anything from their previous lives, including their own names, so the protagonist is known simply as R. While he speaks eloquently in narration, he is actually only able to vocalize up to four syllables at a time. After meeting Julie on a hunting raid on the city and saving her from the other undead, he begins to feel a change happening within him, a strong desire to shove off the symptoms of dead-status and become a better person for Julie, despite the confusion from his fellow–and very hungry–zombies and the vengeful hatred from the Living. As R and Julie try to make something of a friendship that blossoms into romance, they have to convince the angry mobs from both of their backgrounds that this relationship can work.
If it’s necessary to point out the flaws, it would have been nice if there was less profanity in the text, only because the current dialog will prevent forward-thinking English teachers from using this book with their students as they teach Shakespeare’s work. It also would have been helpful to some readers to know about the origin of the mysterious virus that causes zombie-status upon death, although the publisher has mentioned that an ebook prequel will be coming soon that will give readers more insight into the back story.