Friday, December 16, 2011

GN Review -- My Boyfriend Is a Monster: I Love Him to Pieces / Evonne Tsang and Janina Gorrissen

The My Boyfriend Is a Monster series of books is written to appeal to teens, mixing romance and adventure with a dash of horror. The first book in this series, I Love Him to Pieces, sets things against the backdrop of a zombie outbreak, and questions in tongue-in-cheek fashion if teen love can survive the zombie apocalypse.

Dicey Bell and Jack Chen are two teens who couldn't be more different at first glance: Jack's a brilliant, quiet nerd boy, and Dicey is a loud, outgoing and beautiful jock girl. So when they're paired together to watch an egg for a health education project, the unlikeliest of romances blooms from its completion. Making fun of how different they are, the pair enjoy their newfound infatuation with one another amid the potentially socially stifling landscape of high school.

Things are going great, until an outbreak of zombies threatens everything! Things get complicated with two new developments: Jack seems to be connected to the outbreak in a mysterious way, and then he gets bitten by one of the zombies. The rest of the story revolves around Dicey's efforts to save her new boyfriend's life and get to a safe zone from the zombies. Will Jack survive, or will their relationship be destroyed by the zombie apocalypse?

One of the things I really liked about this story is how there is not a single reference to the impending zombie attack until nearly the halfway point of the whole story. Dicey and Jack are given plenty of time to develop their relationship, flirt with one another, and show the reader that they are not simply thrown together arbitrarily before dealing with the seriousness of the zombie outbreak. That the action really does pick up from that point is a testament to writer Evonne Tsang's ability to blend two types of stories into one.

We could debate the verisimilitude of just about any story with zombies in it, but often they are written as semi-realistic horror stories. This tale is unrealistic, and definitely lacking in much horror, but it is undeniably charming. As big a stretch as the walking dead may be, most of the exaggeration of credibility is in the everyday elements meant to appeal to teens. Jack and Dicey are very likable characters, but complete opposites who are sickeningly perfect in their ways. Jack's scientist parents are not only involved in combating the zombie plague, but have sent agents with a miracle pill that slows the zombie virus's ability to turn the victims--just what Jack needs after he's been bitten! These moments will have some people shaking their heads skeptically, while others will simply be content to enjoy the story as these two battle on to their final fate.

The artwork by Janina Gorrissen is much like the story--not particularly deep, but striking and charming. It's a little more realistic than cartoony, and while it sports some heavy lines in places it doesn't feel weighed down at all. The zombies are drawn to minimize any of the disturbing elements, while the details of the human characters are played up to emphasize their charms: expressive faces, good hair, young, thin, athletic bodies. Again, it's unrealistic, but it also makes for entertaining reading.

Overall, this is an entertaining but not particularly remarkable piece of teen romance literature, with a dollop of zombies thrown in for good measure. Anyone interested in such types of literature won't be disappointed, but readers looking for more weighty material may be disappointed. Horror enthusiasts should, and probably will, definitely steer clear. This is more for the romantics. Recommended.

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