Beth Mattson introduces us to Ophelia Immune in her sometimes shocking but always innovative debut novel. Ophelia and her Family survived the Zombie apocalypse. As the novel opens, they are Drivers. Which is the alternative to being Hikers, and means they are living in their car and driving North to where Zombies freeze in the Winter.
I find myself inadvertently capitalizing like Ophelia does in this first-person account. After reading her unique voice for a week, I can’t help myself. Please play along.
The story covers Ophelia age six to age 16, so perhaps you’d call it a coming-of-age Story. It’s so much more than that. Mattson’s creativity starts with the way Drivers stay safe from Zombies at night. They check themselves into Campsites, if they can get in. But it’s really a Cage designed to keep zombies Out.
“Being locked into an official Campsite was a comforting sound—the heavy slam of the security gate closing, and the jangle of the Ranger walking away with the keys on his belt.”
In what kind of World is this okay? And how could it possibly not go all kinds of Wrong?
Just when you think this Family of Drivers has gotten relatively safe from the Zombies, all kinds of Hell starts to happen. And it’s not the Hell you’d expect. It’s a slow burn—a Bad Man and a few wrong Choices.
(I want to tell you so much More about the story. But giving it away is not Cool.)
Here’s what I do Know. This kid, Ophelia, worms her way into your Heart, like Zombie slime sneaks into a paper cut. Before you can say “boo,” you’re Cheering and Gasping, and Hoping she finds a way through her Troubles.
I would recommend this to readers who enjoy Horror or Urban fantasy. Must be okay with some blood, guts, and Gore. Also with troubling themes that make you Think.
Ophelia is everything you want from a young Heroine. She is tough, has Gumption and Persistence, and just wants to find a Community. Ophelia has Heart, particularly amidst the deeply naive choices she makes.
And Mattson’s writing style is Captivating. She offers social commentary on Slavery (and other things), while creating Gruesome details, and nudging us into Loving Ophelia. It’s not an easy triad to Juggle, but Mattson does just that.
There were times I’d say to myself, “Is this really YA and not adult?” And then Mattson would hit me with an Adult theme, like axes behead Zombies. Ophelia may be young, but she’s never been allowed to be a Child. So, her life feels pretty Adult to me.
Mattson builds a world where nothing is Safe. She creates details, like Campsites and Rangers, that have correlations to today. But they’re entirely singular in Ophelia’s experience. Which is where we are privileged to be Invited, even if only between the covers of this Delicious book.
I received a digital advanced reader’s copy from the author in exchange for this honest review. Thanks ever so much, Beth!