Still Alive by Kelsey Harwood
Publisher: Featherweight Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (144 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Age Recommendation: 14+
Reviewed by Astilbe
Two years after their parent's death, siblings Cassie and John Sullivan's lives are starting to get back to normal in their hometown of Hazelhurst, Georgia. Cassie goes to school with her friends and boyfriend while John works to put food on the table. But their world is turned upside down when a virus that is threatening civilization as we know it breaks out across America. When John hears of a place in California that is supposed to be protected from the infection, they take off with the one hope they have. While heading for their safe haven, John and Cassie's lives change forever.
Do you know how to survive a zombie apocalypse?
Cassie is intelligent, level-headed and reacts quickly in even the most unexpected situations. When she drives into a seemingly abandoned town her vehicle is suddenly surrounded by zombies. Despite not having a driver’s license she out manoeuvres them and delivers all of her passengers to safety. This was by far my favourite scene in the book because it was such a tantalizing glimpse into the woman she will evolve into as a result of her experiences in a post-apocalyptic world.
Ms. Harwood’s interpretation of what a zombie is and how it behaves is a little out of the ordinary for the genre. This decision breathes new horror into some of the scenes and moral dilemmas that zombie fans have learned to anticipate.
John and Cassie are too trusting for two people described as knowledgable about zombie movies. While it comes from a good place, their willingness to help others is somewhat out of place in a world where surviving is already so difficult. As much as I admire their altruism it would have been more realistic for them to temper that urge over time as they realize how dangerous day-to-day life remains even long after the outbreak began. With that being said they are two people I’d love to run into in the event of a disaster. The world would be a much better place if everyone shared their moral code.
I would have also preferred to learn more about a guy named Paul who is introduced a little later on in the plot. What we are told about his background is almost as interesting as the questions that aren’t answered and it would have been simple to include this information in the conversations the main characters share or as a flashback.
While working on this review I learned that Kelsey Harwood wrote Still Alive when she was just fifteen years old. There’s definitely something to be said for young adult novels written by people in that demographic! Ms. Harwood’s knowledge of teenage slang and culture shines through in the dialogue and I’m looking forward to what she comes up with next. This would be a good choice for reluctant readers in particular as it’s a fast-paced, action-heavy tale that spends a minimum amount of time on characterization before the plot thickens.