cover image Better Off Undead

Better Off Undead

James Preller. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-06648-0

After a skateboarding accident leads to his death and inexplicable reanimation, Adrian Lazarus is forced to start seventh grade as a decomposing and slightly smelly zombie. In addition enduring bullying, Adrian is being watched, but he’s not sure by whom or why. Teaming up with his loyal friend Zander, no-nonsense Gia, and budding detective Talal, Adrian sets out to fend off the bullies and figure out who’s behind the surveillance. Preller (The Courage Test) takes the physical and emotional awkwardness of middle school to grisly levels as Adrian worries not about acne or voice changes, but about his nose falling off in class and his desire to “scarf up a dead squirrel from the street.” Readers will empathize with Adrian’s discomfort in his own rotting skin: “I felt... almost normal. But every time I caught a glimpse of my reflection, I instantly understood the physical revulsion that people experienced when they saw me.” Against a near-future backdrop, Preller thoughtfully chronicles the anxieties of middle school, using a blend of comedy and horror to send a message of empowerment and self-acceptance. Ages 9–13. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Oct.)