Sick by Tom Leeven
Brian and his friends are not part of the cool crowd. They’re the misfits, the troublemakers — the ones who jump their High School’s electrified fence to skip school regularly. So when the virus breaks out, they’re the only ones with a chance of surviving. The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. In other words: Zombies. The whole school goes on lockdown and the military surrounds the fence, and Brian and his best friend Chad are safe (and stuck) in the theater department — far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids who he’d never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates. In a world turned upside down, who exactly are the real monsters?
Zombies are one of my favourite monsters. There is just something so deliciously creepy about them, they properly freak me out. The best way I have found to combat this particular fear? Read as many zombie novels as I possibly can, I’ve opted for the kill or cure approach. I’m always on the lookout for a new interpretation of this particular mythology. Zombies in high school? Hell, why not.
The cast of characters in Sick include your usual high school geeks and goofballs. Everyone from the cheerleaders to the drama club gets caught up in events.
Brian is a typical high school kid. Most days when he wakes up, his biggest concerns are his relationship with his ex-girlfriend and figuring out the easiest way to cut classes. Today is different, by lunchtime everything will have changed. Large chunks of the student population are dead set on ripping their classmates apart. The rules have evolved overnight and Brian and his friends are fighting for their lives. Suddenly, it’s kill or be killed.
Of all the kids it was Chad who turned out to be a particular favourite. He backs Brian, the main protagonist, to the hilt in every decision. Chad always goes the extra mile for his friends. It helps that Chad is a bit of a nutter as well, the perfect person to help lead the charge against the violent horde. I can entirely respect any character who chooses a blue Mohawk as his hairstyle of choice.
We never really discover why the outbreak has occurred, but I don’t think this actually detracts from the story any. This is all about how people react. Who rises to the challenge and who isn’t prepared to face their fears.
Ok, ok. I suppose strictly speaking this isn’t a zombie novel, your zombie purists probably certainly wouldn’t think so anyway. The monsters here are those who are infected, not dead, but I’ll be honest I’m not going to pick hairs. That same sense of claustrophobia that I’m always on the lookout for in zombie fiction is most definitely present; the feeling of impending doom that I relish. The entire book takes place over the space of just one day and this keeps the plot suitably tense. Things start nice and slowly but build to a delightfully dark conclusion.
Sick isn’t a massive book, only a couple of hundred pages long, so this is the perfect introduction to horror/zombie fiction for any teen. I’d happily recommend this to any reader who enjoys a bit of quality zombie entertainment. When the inevitable zombie apocalypse does finally happen, it’s only a matter of time you know, reading this sort of book might just save your life. That, and a good pair of running shoes.
Sick is published by Amulet Press and is available now.