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Passing Strange by Daniel Waters

The Blurb On The Back:

Karen DeSonne always passed as a normal teenager – and now that she’s dead, she’s still passing – this time as alive.


But when her dead friends are accused of a high profile murder and forced into hiding, it’s up to Karen to prove their innocence. Which means doing the unthinkable and becoming the girlfriend of bionist zealot Peter Martinsburg, who she suspects of framing them. But if Peter finds out who Karen really is, the consequences for her will be worse than death ...




Karen DeSonne is a zombie, but unlike many other the reanimated teenagers living in America, she still passes for human and consequently avoids many of the bans that other dead teens face including driving and go to school. After being brutally shot during a protest, she also discovers that she has the unique ability to heal herself. While she comes to terms with this and what it means for her, her friends are framed for the murder of a prominent lawyer and are forced into hiding. Karen becomes convinced that Peter Martinsberg is responsible and when she realises that he thinks she’s normal and is attracted to her, she becomes his girlfriend to discover his plans. But Karen’s playing a dangerous game and the consequences of Peter discovering the truth are dire not just for her but also for all of her friends.

This is the third in Waters series about teen zombies and while I hadn’t read the previous 2 books, you don’t need to in order to follow this.

Although Karen could easily come across as a stereotypical emo teenager, what sets her apart is the fact that unlike many other teens, she committed suicide and much of her afterlife has been spent coping with the guilt at committing that act and seeing the affect it has on her parents and sister. In particular, her mother’s reaction to her (such that she can’t bear Karen to touch their food) is very moving and there is a real warmth and tenderness to the conversations between Karen and her more sympathetic dad.

In contrast Peter is a disappointingly two-dimensional villain and while Waters tries to humanise him towards the end it’s very much a case of too little too late. It’s difficult to be quite believe in the relationship that develops between them – not least from his point of view in that he doesn’t seem able to pick up on any of the more obvious signs that she’s dead, which feels quite contrived.

The central storyline of the battle for civil rights for zombies is well handled if unoriginal and the book ends with the potential for that to develop further – particularly given the forces ranged against it and I will definitely be going back to read both the preceding books and also the next ones in the series.

The Verdict:

The use of the paranormal to explore a civil rights story line is not original, but this YA fantasy is lifted by the tender examination of the effects of suicide on a family and the emotions and guilt that leads someone to commit it. I found Karen to be an interesting, well drawn character although some of her abilities border on Mary-Suedom although the main antagonist is unfortunately much more two-dimensional. All in all, having not read any of the previous books in this series, I’m going to check them out and will also be interested to see how this series develops.

Thanks to the Simon & Schuster for the free copy of this book.

Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming, fantasywithbite, urbanfantasyfan, and yalitlovers.
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