Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0316220781
Synopsis: After a particularly disastrous baseball game, Rabi, Joe, and Miguel decide to go practice their swing near the local meatpacking plant and they’re met with an even more disastrous stink. Turns out, the plant is trying to beef up their cattle by shooting them full of drugs that are turning them into zombies…and the meat is being shipped out all over the country. Can three boys stop the zombie apocalypse? Maybe not, but they’re going to kick butt trying.
Why I picked it up: It combines two of America’s favorite pastimes: baseball and preparing for the zombie apocalypse. The zombocalypse, if you will. Plus, the cover really knocks your socks off.
Why I finished it: Oddly enough, this book reminded me a lot of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which takes such an up close look at the meat packing industry that it will turn almost any steak-loving person into a vegetarian. Bacigalupi’s book isn’t quite so graphic in its descriptions, but it does ask questions about where our food comes from. Rabi already doesn’t eat beef (he’s Indian and they worship cows, so eating them is like, verbooten), but he and his friends still have concerns about the practices of the Milrow Meats plant. After all, the tainted beef isn’t exactly staying in their small town of Delbe, where only a small portion of the population could be affected. Add to that the fact that the company is systematically letting go of its workers from Mexico that know perhaps a little too much about what goes on, and Rabi and his friends have a good reason to try to stop an oncoming storm. I’ll admit that the whole zombies craze is getting a little bit old, but Bacigalupi gives the reader a fresh spin on the topic, making the focus of the plot not about the zombies, but other social issues such as food processing and immigration. Rabi, Joe, and Miguel give the reader something to cheer for as they work on clever ideas to help warn the town about the mystery meat, drawing from their favorite comic books as inspiration. The ending is surprising, but like the rest of the book, it gives the reader something to think about after the final pages have been read and the book is closed. It proves that anyone can be a hero, no matter how much the feeling of losing overwhelms us, and that with enough guts we can overcome what is getting us down.
Other related materials: Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi; Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon by Paul Tobin, illustrated by Ron Chan; The Enemy by Charlie Higson, The Dead by Charlie Higson; The Fear by Charlie Higson; The Sacrifice by Charlie Higson; The End is Nigh edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey; Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie; How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating; How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley