Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Reapers are the Angels

Temple is alone in a new world.  It used to be the United States, but that doesn’t matter now.  People used to live in houses, ride bicycles, and go to school.  No one does anymore.  Not really.  Not the way it used to be.  Temple’s world is full of zombies, or meatskins, and survivors like her.  
Alden Bell creates both a riveting character in Temple and remarkable world from the first sentence.  “God is a slick God. Temple knows.  She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe”.  Temple’s world is a place where zombies invaded and civilization came to a grinding halt twenty-five years prior, but it’s the only world 15 year-old Temple has ever known.  Although she doesn’t know how to read, she knows how to hot-wire cars, find supplies in abandoned houses and businesses, and, most importantly, she knows how to kill.  Killing meatskins takes no thought and brings no remorse, but when Temple is forced to kill a man who tries to rape her, she must grapple with guilt, remorse, and a muddled sense of spirituality as she runs from his vengeful brother.  Temple’s travels take her places that are bizarre and almost impossible to imagine, an unrecognizable, macabre southern United States.

The Reapers are the Angels is an epic book packed into a small package.  Temple is a study in contradictions, both fearless and vulnerable.  She is brave and principled in the same vein as Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.  Like Katniss, Temple represents a kind of hope to the people she encounters in her bleak world.  Temple continually grapples with her place in a very violent, chaotic world and wonders what if she will be a tool for good or evil.  Despite having no training in anything other than survival, Temple seeks meaning in a world of zombies, soullessness, and constant death.  Like other teens, she also seeks small pleasures, occasional oblivion, adventures, and someone to occasionally lift the awesome weight of her responsibilities from her shoulders.  

Readers will be enthralled with the zombie-infested world Bell has created.  Temple’s world is one in which she has complete autonomy to take a car and head in any direction, as long as she can stay ahead of her enemies and a zombie bite.  They will understand Temple’s struggle with spirituality and a feeling that there is something greater than herself at work and will admire her sense of immortality in a world where others are cowering in fear.  Temple doesn’t need adults to protect or advise her because she has her survival skills honed as sharply as her trusty khukuri knife.  She is an amazing heroine that will appeal to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Hunger Games.

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