REVIEW: The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago

53. The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago
Publication: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (April 1, 2011), Paperback, 465pp / ISBN 1402247850
Genre: YA Horror/Sci-fi

Read: June 7, 2011
Source: BEA 2011

Summary from Amazon:

“On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the ‘Holy Crap Factor.'”

Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who’ve banded together to battle the Corpses.


I’ve been wanting to read The Undertakers ever since I found out about it back in February, and so I was really excited to snag a (signed!) copy at BEA 2011. I like zombies, I like YA horror, and I like secret underground societies of kids doing awesome things. This book, I thought, should be a total win.

Well it IS a total win. The Undertakers is scary without being over-the-top horrifying, it’s got action as well as emotional stuff, and it’s never boring. They characters even had depth and– shocking– life-like reactions to stuff. I don’t often read a horror/action book where the kid protagonist actually, y’know, wants to go home, where he doesn’t automatically think everything is freakin’ awesome and that he has some inalienable right to be the kick-ass hero type. Will actually has doubts! He’s scared and wants his mom! He’s a normal 12-year-old kid with normal kid reactions, and I really appreciated that.

Of course, since Will is the protagonist he adapts fairly quickly to his new life, but that’s a useful survival mechanism in any situation, I think. Especially in a zombie situation. (Not that they’re truly zombies.)

Not like these zombies

Besides Will and his wonderful real-life-kid reactions, I loved the secondary characters, who had just as much depth as Will did. I loved that one kid who was presented as a bully wasn’t actually “evil,” and I love that Will’s almost-sidekick-but-not-quick/love interest, Helene, didn’t act like his substitute mom. Huzzah, young female characters who don’t act like mothers!

I really liked the way this book was set up. We learn a lot about the corpse situation, the Undertakers, and how this alternative world is set up– but everything is spread out in such a way that it feels like a natural development of the story rather than piles of infodumps everywhere. I liked how Will’s Big Bad Hero plot was spread all throughout the story, so that his big moment of glory only came after some smaller moments of awesomeness. It made kept the book exciting and always moving forward; I never felt like it was getting slow or boring, even after 400 pages.

And finally, I liked that Mr Drago wasn’t afraid to actually kill off some of his characters. Fighting against the undead– or any villain, really– is always dangerous, and sometimes I don’t think YA books entirely have the courage to actually show that part of the battle between good and evil. On the other hand, they were tertiary characters who barely got any screentime before their deaths, so I don’t know how effective that whole thing actually was– but I think Mr Drago made it an essential part of the story and not just something to shock readers with.

So basically: really liked this book, can’t wait for the next one, and if you like horror you should definitely read The Undertakers.


Two thumbs up!


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Other reviews

The Word Zombie: “Whether you look for commentary on growing up, or just a good zombie adventure, “The Undertakers” is an incredibly fun story to read. Drago has done a superb job of creating a comfortably livable world for his zombie tale, and left the door wide open for the inevitable sequel (or two, or three, or seven.) He has a polished style and comfortable prose that made reading the book a pleasure.”

My Overstuffed Bookshelf: “I found this book to be adventurous and fun to read. As an adult, there were some things that didn’t jive for me in it. If you have a younger male teen who has been reluctant to read, I think this would be a great book to start off with though. As an adult reader, I had to keep trying to remember that it is a book geared for younger teens and some adults might not like the writing because of that.”


Some books this one reminds me of:

Are there any YA horror books written by women?

I’m totally wondering what’s going to happen once the older characters turn into “adults.” As in, when they 18. Will they stop seeing the corpses? Will they see something else? Plus, just because you’re 18 years old doesn’t make you an adult— also, biological adulthood is different from social/legal adulthood (Wikipedia even says so).

Technically biological adulthood starts once you begin puberty, so either the only people who can see corpses are social adolescents, in which case they’ll stop seeing corpses once they reach the age of social adulthood (but why would that specific age matter in regards to, basically, super powers?) or they’re very special adults. The latter would make sense because of a spoiler thing with Will’s family. It’d make doubly more sense if “childhood” was defined by some brain thing and not age/puberty/social status. Don’t kids’ brains work differently from adults’? In which case my point still stands: your brain doesn’t suddenly switch to “adult” when you turn 18. So what’s going to happen?

Maybe I’m thinking about this too much.

Finally: the CDC is prepared for a zombie apocalypse and you should be, too.

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