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Should I Say Undead American?

Jeff Hart's zombie-tastic Eat, Brains, Love was awesome, but the sequel is even better.

Should I Say Undead American?

BOOK REPORT for Undead With Benefits (Eat, Brains, Love #2) by Jeff Hart

Cover Story: Unappetizing Seconds
BFF Charm: Platinum, Sassy Gay Friend
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: Zombies, Quest
Relationship Status: Let's Take This to the Next Level

Cover Story: Unappetizing Seconds

This artwork continues the food theme from the first book's cover, and while I like the playful humor, I still can't handle the GROSS.

The Deal:

Undead With Benefits is the sequel to Eat, Brains, Love, so if you haven't read the latter, you should really get on that. (And quit reading this review.)

After the hot mess at the farmhouse, Amanda, Jake and Cass hit the road for Des Moines, the alleged location of the zombie cure. Cass is still crushing on Jake and hating on Amanda, so the vibe isn't exactly cozy, but at least they're united in their search for a pharmaceutical miracle. That is, until Alistaire shows up in Cass' head and threatens to hurt her mother unless she delivers a vial of the cure to him. She reluctantly agrees, which gains the trio instant access to the wasteland formerly known as Iowa's capital city. And that's when things get really complicated. In order to accomplish their mission, Jake, Amanda and Cass must avoid swarms of zombies, a looming military invasion and the dreaded Lord of Des Moines. You know, just your typical road trip.

BFF Charm: Platinum

Jake is still totally my boy. He hasn't lost his sense of humor, but his recent life undead experience has brought him a deeper emotional complexity. He's a slightly more mature dude now, so while he continues to be a doofus in many (loveable) respects, he's also more in tune with his feelings. And it's that growth that allows him to finally blossom into a full grown hero in this book. You just got upgraded to platinum, son!

BFF Charm: Sassy Gay Friend

Cass, honey, we need to talk. In the first book, you were so smart and thoughtful and kickass, and I completely sympathized with your loneliness. But then we met up again in this sequel, and you started making bad choices. Really bad choices. I understand that you're in a terrible situation, but as your friend, I have to tell you something:

Get your shizz together in the next book, girl, because you're better than this.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

As a fan of Amanda and Jake's unlikely romance, I was happy to see it deepen, although reading about it from a dude's perspective doesn't exactly set my pulse racing. I do have to give pants to Jeff Hart for establishing a love triangle that feels authentically bittersweet. Cass' angst over Jake is endearing, while Amanda's bond with him is palpable, so for the first time in recent memory, I wasn't able to swear allegiance to a team.* This is a weird feeling, you guys.

*I mean, Team Amanda or Team Cass. I'm obviously already on Team Jake.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

The alternating narratives of Jake and Cass continue in this book, with one brief exception that I won't spoil for you (but very much enjoyed). I didn't think it was possible, but Jake's voice is even more dynamic in the sequel, to the point where I've started referring to him as "my buddy Jake" when talking about this book. His pages practically explode with personality, and his thoughts are so exuberantly, well, dude-ish.

"I cannot believe you're my girlfriend," I said, thinking out loud.

Yeah, I went there. Girlfriend. Alert the Facebook community-- it's time for a status change! Resurrect all the friends I ate two weeks ago so that I can sprint past them getting high fives before tearing through one of those paper banners pep-rally style-- it's got CONGRATULATIONS ON ALL THAT BOOTY, JAKE painted on it-- and then I bust out my most epic dance moves (sprinkler, so much sprinkler) while the marching band knocks out a rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." And one of those male cheerleader guys does backflips in the background.

It's cool. No big deal.

You can't read that and not want to be one of the friends high fiving Jake. (Besides the eaten part.)

And it's not just Jake that has improved. Jeff Hart's writing overall is stronger in this book, with intensified pacing and darker, more introspective themes. I never say this, but this sequel is even better than its precursor.

Bonus Factor: Zombies

Hart takes his twist on zombies a step further in this book with a self-awareness that is both hilarious and creepy. My favorite example: the undead of Des Moines host a weekly "Romero Run" which involves, you guessed it, zombies chasing after humans.

Bonus Factor: Quest

Jake, Amanda and Cass' mission to find the cure packs this book with a heap of adventures. From psychic shoplifting to zombie warfare, the thrills and hijinks involved are sometimes scary, sometimes ridiculous, and always entertaining.

Casting Call:

I cast Jake, Amanda and Cass in my previous review, but I'll add this guy to the mix:

Titus Makin Jr. as Reggie

I won't tell you much about this character except that he's SUPER interesting, and I hope we see more of him in the third book.

Relationship Status: Let's Take This to the Next Level

I never thought I could get serious with a zombie book, but after spending time with Undead With Benefits, I'm ready to COMMIT. I mean, I had a blast with the first book, but since we kept it kind of casual, I had no idea that I would get attached to the sequel. It's just so damn charming, not to mention clever, and I can't wait to continue our relationship with the third book. Not to sound clingy but... when is it coming out?!

p.s. CONGRATULATIONS ON ALL THAT BOOTY, JAKE.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen. I received neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review. Undead With Benefits is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).