cover image This Delicious Death

This Delicious Death

Kayla Cottingham. Sourcebooks Fire, $11.99 paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-7282-3644-5

Cottingham (My Dearest Darkest) weaves a fresh take on the zombie meta in this blood-curdling horror novel that takes place two years after an unusual pathogen is released from melting icecaps. High school best friends Zoey Huxley, Celeste Fairbanks, Valeria Vega, and Jasmine Owusu have all contracted the disease, called the Hollowing, which causes the afflicted, known as ghouls, to crave human flesh. Fortunately, scientists have invented SynFlesh, a lab-grown substitute that, when eaten, can stave off the ghouls’ insatiable hunger. Thus sated, the quartet’s condition isn’t going to stop them from attending Desert Bloom, a music festival in the Mojave Desert. Upon arrival, the teens are invited to a party by one of the headlining bands. When Val suddenly disappears, the girls’ search for her reveals that she has been drugged into a murderous frenzy—and has already consumed one of the bandmates. Centering variously queer and racially diverse characters, whose interpersonal and ghoulish challenges are portrayed with equal gravitas, Cottingham impressively explores solidly teen issues regarding self-image against the backdrop of a haunting mystery and mystifying illness. Visceral horror depictions, a climbing body count, and socially conscious prose elevate this jaw-dropping chiller. Ages 14–up. Agent Erica Bauman, Aevitas Creative Management. (Apr.)