cover image The End Games

The End Games

T. Michael Martin. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-220

Martin covers familiar territory—zombies, conspiracies, post-apocalyptic romance—but does so with style in this exciting debut novel. In the West Virginia mountains, 17-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, fight the “Bellows,” light-fearing zombies that mimic the sounds of the living as they attack them. To help Patrick cope, Michael keeps up the pretense that the entire nightmare is a game, something he started when they ran away from their abusive stepfather the night the Bellows first attacked. The challenges they face (beyond the Bellows themselves) range from religious zealots and megalomaniacal soldiers to Patrick’s dwindling supply of anti-anxiety medication. Martin sometimes lets set pieces stand in the way of common sense—such as an early scene in which Michael calmly ignores a Bellow because he’s certain the sun will rise before it gets to him—and some of the threats can be cliché, but the West Virginia setting, tense action, devoted fraternal relationship, and Michael’s lovers-in-dangerous-times romance with a girl named Holly will keep teens hooked. Ages 14–up. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary + Media. (May)