cover image Brains for Lunch

Brains for Lunch

K.A. Holt, illus. by Gahan Wilson, Roaring Brook/Porter, $15.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-59643-629-9

Gross-out humor and romantic tension enmesh in this clever novel told in haiku about a zombie (aka Z) named Loeb who falls for a "Lifer," Siobhan. Raising the stakes on the usual social jockeying of middle school, the Zs eat brains for lunch, which makes Lifers not only attractive but appetizing. "Try to play it cool/ She's a Lifer after all/ I could chomp her brain." Holt (Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel) excels at wordplay and a surprisingly sophisticated brand of slapstick ("She makes my face flush/ Or, I'm just putrefying/ Either way, I'm red"). This, mixed with the astutely observed social dynamics (zombies versus humans, with chupacabras thrown in for good measure) and the haiku form, which is an ideal vehicle for the kind of halted observations one expects from the undead, makes this a standout choice for reluctant readers. New Yorker artist Wilson's gruesome pen and ink cartoons of the deformed, bug-eyed students, not all of which were seen by PW, are also an inspired match, highlighting the self-doubt and angst of the preteen years, heartbeat or not. Ages 9–14. (Aug.)