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Panic on the Streets of London

Jenny reviews The Enemy by Charlie Higson, in which all the grown-ups have turned to zombies with a craving for eating kids.

Panic on the Streets of London

BOOK REPORT for The Enemy (The Enemy Book 1) by Charlie Higson

BFF Charm: YAY!!!!!!
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Heart Stopping
Bonus Factors: Kid Nation, London, Zombie Parents
Relationship Status: I'm Having This Book's Baby!!!!

The Deal:

(Okay, first off: Right now. Go out and buy this book. I always hate it when the back of a book says something like "This book will appeal to fans of books like Twilight and Evernight" but I'm about to do the same thing. If you just finished Michael Grant's Lies, and are waiting not-so-patiently for Mockingjay, this book will soothe your savage case of TEABS! At least until you finish it. Then I'm afraid you will have a new outbreak and feel just like a 'burster' yourself.)

Everyone in London (and possibly the world) over the age of 16 has contracted a horrible disease that eats them up from the inside-out. They either die, or go marauding around eating the kids who were left behind. This book follows classic zombie story guidelines, with aplomb-- a group of kids are holed up in the Waitrose on Holloway Road (a grocery store, of course), but they're running out of food, and the 'mothers and fathers' keep picking them off one-by-one. A new kid shows up, promising that there are no grownups where he's just come from (Buckingham Palace, naturally) and they're growing vegetables and the streets are paved with gold... So the whole group heads out on what should be a 2 1/2 hour walk, but of course, problems arise.

Meanwhile, we follow Small Sam, who's been taken by the grown-ups, but hasn't been eaten yet. (That's all I'll say about that.)

Will the Waitrose kids, along with the others they pick up along the way, get to the palace, and if they do, will it really be the safe haven they've been promised, or will there be more sinister plots afoot?

BFF Charm: YAY!!!!

These kids pretty much all would get my BFF charm. In fact, I need to shout out to Arran, Freak, Maxie, Lewis, Blue, Ollie, The Kid, Callum (oh man, the part about your mom and ABBA? You slay me, Mr. Higson!) Blu-Tack Bill and ohmygod SMALL SAM!!!!!! Small Sam, I love you so much. I don't think I've loved a character this much in a very long time, y'all. Small Sam is so brave and resourceful, and funny! When he starts calling the mothers and fathers bad names in his head, and when he was trapped in the Tube tunnel with Rhiannon, talking about his video games from BEFORE, I laughed out loud. Seriously, he is quite possibly the cutest, most endearing character I've ever read.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

I know what you're thinking. You're going all Fred Savage, but in reverse. So, yeah, this is NOT a kissing book. There are some romantic feelings between some of the characters, but they are not fully realised, because everybody is trying too hard to NOT GET EATEN.

However, you WILL be swooning, on account of the fact that you won't be able to catch your breath.

Talky Talk: Heart Stopping

Charlie Higson is a motherf#@*ing genius. In a book with really no down-time between massive threats, he manages to develop his characters (and there are a lot of them) in such a way that I really felt like I knew each kid. Higson is also a bit of a sadist. While reading this book, I had an imaginary one-sided convo with him (where he was addressing me) that went something like this: "Oh, hey Jenny, you like this story? Like this character a lot, yeah? Think I won't kill him? Bam! Dead! Or this one over here? Snap! Eaten! Oh, you don't like this kid? How 'bout I MAKE you like him, then Splat! Dead, dead and dead! Ha!"

I'd like to spread my critical wings and give you all a big 'but' face, continuing on to tell you what I didn't like about this book, but honestly, I can find nothing wrong with Higson's story. A note to the American publishers would include that I'm pleased that they kept the London terminology and colloquialisms, like "he's well dead" but I wish they'd kept 'football' instead of changing it to 'soccer'. Cause you know what? Kids can look up words they don't get. It might broaden their horizons.

Bonus Factor: Kid Nation

I love a good post-apocolyptic all-the-grownups-are-gone-story, but this is even better, because the grownups aren't gone, they're trying to eat you! And the fact that Higson has his kids calling the zombies 'mothers' and 'fathers' was brilliant.

Bonus Factor: London

London always gets its own bonus factor, because it is the most amazing city in the world. I would take London, overrun by zombies over pretty much any other zombie-free city any day of the week. It might help, when reading this book, if you've spent time in London, because Higson paints a detailed picture of it's streets and neighborhoods, but it's not necessary. (I just geek-gasmed over being able to recognize what he was talking about.)

Bonus Factor: Zombie Parents

I really can't stress enough how much it tickled me the way Higson described the zombies through the eyes of the kids in this story. Here's an example:

Grown-ups were swarming to the edge of the pool and slithering onto the tiles. He gripped his pickaxe handle and lashed out at them two-handed. A fat little father with useless legs hobbled out in a crouch, like some horrible, ungainly frog...

Casting Call:

You may think I'm cheating a bit with this, but I really did envision these kids when I read the book.

The cast of Skins as the kids from Holloway

And this, too, was a no-brainer for me:

Chase Ellison as Small Sam

From the moment this kid appeared on Deadwood, Season 3, I could do nothing but worry about his safety. (And rightly so, it turned out.) For such a little guy, he has an uncanny power to twist your heart in knots.

Relationship Status: I'm Having This Book's Baby!!!!!

You might say to me that this is no world to be making babies in. I agree, what with the very probability that I could become a pustulous flesh eater in the very near future. However, I didn't MEAN to become this book's baby mum. We were just so consumed by each other, and our passion was so intense, we weren't thinking of the possible consequences. Plus, nobody has been around to teach safe sex for over a year.

FTC Full Disclosure: My review copy was a free ARC I received from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!).

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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