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Don’t Say The Z-Word

Thriller writer Gregg Hurwitz steps foot into the YA world with The Rains, a book about “Chasers" and “Hosts," but a zombie by any other name would smell as foul.

Don’t Say The Z-Word

BOOK REPORT for The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz

Cover Story: Braaaiiins
BFF Charm: Maybe x 2
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Found Footage
Bonus Factors: Dogs, Gore, Aliens
Relationship Status: Sure, I’ll Bite

Cover Story: Braaaiiins

The Rains? More like The Brains! (#dadjoke) I actually really liked the cover of my review copy; it was just like this one with a few stylistic changes, but without the reaching hands. It was subtle and ominous. All you saw was our trio hurrying down the road—not bolting, mind you, Alex looking warily over her shoulder. Then they added in the zombie arms and now it doesn’t even make sense. If the undead were grabbing at my ass, I would be HAULING it.

The Deal:

Chance and Patrick Rain became orphans at six and eight years old, when their parents died in a car accident. Nine years later, they are losing every adult they’ve ever known to a mysterious infection or otherworldly parasite. Nearly overnight, an event they call “The Dusting” transformed everyone eighteen years or older into something unrecognizable—and out for blood.

The Rains have to figure out how to survive along with the small band of kids who have managed not to be dragged away by the Walkers, I mean Hosts. (Does anyone else fear we're running out of names for zombies?) And it won’t be enough to stock provisions and hide from those they once trusted as teachers, doctors and parents. They're going to need to search for the answers, because the transformation happens the very second you turn eighteen ... and Patrick is next!

BFF Charm: Maybe x 2

There's nothing wrong with these brothers, except for the creepy love triangle thing. More on that later. But I’m just not ready to give away charms. I need more time. This will be a trilogy, so I’ve got time … if I don’t turn eighteen before the books end!! Oh, wait.

I think my hang-up has to do with how perfect Chance and Patrick are. The boys have been raised by their aunt and uncle, who own a cattle ranch and breed/sell Rhodesian Ridgebacks. And these guys have skills for days. They can drive all kinds of vehicles, shoot accurately from a distance, carry really heavy things... Apparently, nothing will you prepare you for the end of the world quite like being a ranch hand. Oh, and they are really kind and also gorgeous. In real life, wouldn’t these guys be a bit douchey? (Sorry, I misplaced my rose-colored glasses.) At the very least, I would pretend to be BFFs just to increase my chances of survival. I’m not above that.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

This love triangle better lose its shape before the next books, let me tell you! The third part of our trio of heroes in this book is an awesome girl named Alex, and she’s Patrick’s girlfriend. Did you hear me, Chance? She’s YOUR BROTHER’S GIRLFRIEND. Chance is obviously in love with Alex from the get-go, and I was really hoping he would get over it. I was wrong. I mean, Alex is great! She’s kind, capable, tough, brave and beautiful. But Chance and Patrick have such a strong, close relationship. I know the heart rarely listens to reason, but c’mon! I guess Chance really isn’t to blame. (Lookin’ at you, Hurwitz!)

Talky Talk: Found Footage

Our narrator here is Chance, and the chapters are called entries. We’re supposedly reading his long and well-written account of this horrible state of emergency, how it all started, and what secrets they uncover hour by hour. Before the first entry, there’s a note to the reader that is basically like “If you’re reading this, here's my scary story and at the end you should be very, very afraid.” In my benevolent graciousness* I overlooked this writing structure for a few reasons, including Hurwitz’ writing: it’s not bad. Sometimes it’s even great:

At the edge of town, Hogan’s Creek overflowed its banks, drowning the Widow Latrell’s snow peas until minnows swam shimmering figure eights through the vines.

The poetry doesn’t last long AT ALL—just a bit of pretty prose in the beginning to set the scenes—but Hurwitz’s descriptions are on point throughout. I usually have a hard time visualing or hearing the exact look or sound an author is trying to communicate; it's a personal problem. But not here. Thanks, Gregg! For example, the sound of the strange weeds’ pods releasing pollen is described as “a gentle popping like feather pillows ripping open.” I can totally hear that! Or when Chance is peering into a dark classroom, he says, “Cupping my hands like a scuba mask, I put my face to the window.” I can see that, you guys!

*also, duh, it’s a book about the zombie apocalypse! I don't care, I just wanna be scurred!

Bonus Factor: Doggies!

Chance has been raising Rhodesian Ridgebacks for his uncle for years. He's really good at it, and the dogs are super well-trained. There are so many endearing moments with the dogs, even though they're just being dogs. And this adorableness is much needed in a book flush with very NOT-adorable moments. It’s like comic relief, but cute. Cuteness relief.

Bonus Factor: Gore

This book is grisly, and that’s not for everyone. But it’s exactly what I want in a Halloween season read. Here’s a little taste of the kind of nastiness you’re in for—a little amuse-bouche, if you will:

She was crouched on his back like some feral animal, one knee between his shoulder blades. She ripped out a hank of her own long hair, and it came free with a plug of skin riding the end. Using her hair as rope, she started to bind Patrick’s wrists as the small of his back.

Mmm, hair rope with skin plug. Delish.

Bonus Factor: Aliens

It’s not the most original addition to the zombie archetype, but it’s certainly exciting!

Casting Call:


Nick Robinson as Chance


Portia Doubleday as Alex


Alex Pettyfer as Patrick

Relationship Status: Sure, I’ll Bite

Book, I feel like I need to stick by your side because, well, who knows what’s going to happen?! I’ll be there for your sequel, Last Chance. I gotta be honest with you, though: if we’re going to survive, you’re going to need to mature a little. I’m sure you will. The future depends on it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Macmillan. I received neither money nor a baby Rhodesian Ridgeback for this review. The Rains is available now.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.