Review: Living Dead Girl by Nessie Strange

As promised, here is my first endeavor into posting a review on my blog.

Living Dead Girl is a bit of an enigma. It is at once a romance and an urban fantasy, and simultaneously neither. This paradox gives it an unsettling feel, but in the end I found it a satisfying read.

Even though it is not formally delineated as such, this book feels like a story in two distinct parts. “Part One” reads like a contemporary New Adult romance. It tells the story of Jen falling for Jack in the midst of the challenges inherent to family, career, and relationships often encountered when trying to indentify one’s place in the adult world. The story is sweet, the banter witty, and the growing affection and love between Jen and Jack believable and enjoyable. This first half of the book feels like it’s headed to the happily ever after we all love and expect in a good romance.

But then there’s “Part Two”, and despite the lulling romance of the first half, the reader knows the other shoe is going to drop. The novel’s blurb tells us that Jen is murdered. She comes back as a zombie to avenge her death and clear Jack’s name when he is wrongly accused of her murder. This section reads like a dark, gritty urban fantasy. In parts it turns macabre and violent to a point it ventures into a kind of poetic horror. It also contains the only section that lagged for me: the few chapters where Jen is coming to terms with her death before she figures out how to become a zombie.

These two divergent parts give the novel its unsettling mood. Part of me railed against having my happily ever after pulled out from under me. After all, I am not alone in enjoying a happy, satisfying ending. There’s a reason there was so much public outcry after the infamous “red wedding” episode of Game of Thrones.

Another part of me appreciates how this metaphorical pulling out of the reader’s rug mirrors Jen’s journey as she deals with her own loss of her expected happily ever after with Jack. There is a twist in the end that reopens the door for a more optimistic future in the afterlife, saving the book from a tragic ending ala Hamlet. It also sets up a potential urban fantasy series that would follow a premise I didn’t entirely see coming. If a series is Ms. Strange’s intention, it will be interesting to see if it becomes a more predictable urban fantasy story line or if she keeps finding ways to create the disconcerting feel of this novel. Either outcome could be satisfactory.

This is a challenging book in the sense that it has the potential to disappoint the reader looking for a romance and the reader looking for an urban fantasy/horror/zombie story. In the end, I think it is a challenge worth taking. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.