Title: The Undead Truth of Us
Author: Britney S. Lewis
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Horror (kind of), Romance
Review Copy: Electronic provided by publish via NetGalley
Availability: 9 August 2022
Summary: Death was everywhere. They all stared at me, bumping into one another and slowly coming forward.
Sixteen-year-old Zharie Young is absolutely certain her mother morphed into a zombie before her untimely death, but she can’t seem to figure out why. Why her mother died, why her aunt doesn’t want her around, why all her dreams seem suddenly, hopelessly out of reach. And why, ever since that day, she’s been seeing zombies everywhere.
Then Bo moves into her apartment building―tall, skateboard in hand, freckles like stars, and an undeniable charm. Z wants nothing to do with him, but when he transforms into a half zombie right before her eyes, something feels different. He contradicts everything she thought she knew about monsters, and she can’t help but wonder if getting to know him might unlock the answers to her mother’s death.
As Zharie sifts through what’s real and what’s magic, she discovers a new truth about the world: Love can literally change you―for good or for dead.
In this surrealist journey of grief, fear, and hope, Britney S. Lewis’s debut novel explores love, zombies, and everything in between in an intoxicating amalgam of the real and the fantastic.
Review: [Content warnings: Body horror (multiple and detailed descriptions of rotting zombies).]
If you’re looking for a standard zombie story, THE UNDEAD TRUTH OF US will not be it. If, however, you’re looking for a blending of the mundane and the surreal, consider giving author Britney S. Lewis’s debut a chance. Lewis blurs the borders of Zharie’s reality in more ways than just the undead, from references to Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night to the appearance of speech bubbles to the hyper-detailed descriptions of zombies rotting. The way Lewis describes what Zharie is seeing/experiencing can be mesmerizing, whether that’s someone shift into a zombie, getting swept up in a dance, or experiencing overwhelming grief.
The zombies are Zharie’s metaphor, and she spends most of the novel trying to figure out what they are supposed to mean and why it all started with her mother and her mother’s death. I won’t spoil those revelations, but I will say that I deeply empathized with Zharie trying to make the world make sense. One of the things that THE UNDEAD TRUTH OF US did very well was how Zharie’s grief for her mother rippled out into all facets of her life. It colored her perceptions beyond the zombies, and there are a couple of moments where Zharie is angry that really stuck with me, along with the underlying sense of loss that permeated most of the book. I loved how Lewis portrayed Zharie as she handled (or didn’t handle) the loss of her mother.
Zharie’s developing relationship with Bo was fun to read. I appreciate romances where I really get why the people are becoming interested in each other (occasional slide into zombie-ness notwithstanding). Bo easily could have felt like a grief rebound, but Lewis gave their many scenes together enough depth that I was hopeful about the course their relationship would take, even if the romance didn’t work out in the end.
Recommendation: Get it now, if you’re in the mood for a surreal exploration of grief. Britney S. Lewis’s debut, THE UNDEAD TRUTH OF US, is a thoughtful look at a teenager trying to come to terms with the death of her mother and how to figure out her future. The prose is lovely, and the captivating narration creates depth to the world and the blossoming relationship between Zharie and Bo.