As the resident zombie expert at Reflections of a Book Addict, I feel compelled to give any novel that mentions our favorite half-dead friends a good read and review. As I’ve stated before, it’s definitely one of my favorite sub-genres within the greater context of the postapocalyptic world genre. Ever since reading World War Z and The Walking Dead graphic novels, I’ve been basically hooked. Fortunately, Waiting for Daybreak by Amanda McNeill was a great addition to this genre.
Taking place in modern-day Boston, Waiting for Daybreak chronicles the life of Frieda, a twenty-something microbiologist who works in a diagnostic lab in a hospital. Unfortunately for her, she is the only known survivor of an outbreak of an incredibly virulent virus that causes its hosts to transform into cannibalistic, half dead zombies. For nearly a year, she has subsisted in her apartment on the fourth floor of an apartment building, using a combination of scavenging for supplies and growing a garden as a means of nourishment and survival. As far as in the infected are concerned (or “the afflicted” as she calls them), Frieda has become skilled with the use of various knives and other non-projectile objects in luring the zombies to her and dispatching them when necessary. All of this changes when her cat, Snuggles, becomes afflicted with parasitic worms, and Frieda must travel to the local ASPCA office to find medicine to treat her. Unfortunately, the office is far from her current location, and Frieda faces untold dangers in getting there. Most interesting, however, is what happens along the way. She comes into contact with a man named Mike, the first uninfected person she’s seen since the outbreak. What happens between them is predictable, but it’s what happens after that which is something no one could have seen coming.
I’ve always said (in regards to zombie movies/books/etc), that the lessons learned from this type of story are more about what happens to people after the rise of these zombies instead of what happens with the zombies themselves. Basically, the terrifying effects created by the catastrophic destruction of society serve to strip down the survivors and find out what they’re really made of. With no outside interference, people become who they really are, deep down. In this case, Frieda has been diagnosed with a mental illness and struggles with feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. However, the longer that she survives in the zombie apocalypse, the more clear-headed and confident she becomes. This is interesting, as when the general public (that is also generally uneducated about mental illness) thinks about any kind of mental illness, they would assume that any kind of stress or isolation would serve to reinforce this problem and make it worse, rather than better. In Frieda’s case, the time alone has given her an opportunity to think and do a lot of self-evaluation, which has made her come to the conclusion that she is a strong and self-sufficient woman, albeit with a good dose of self-doubt that kicks in every once in a while. Despite this intermittent self-criticism, Frieda is doing better than she ever has before, and her interaction and eventual course of action with Mike only serves to reinforce the fact that this apocalypse has caused her to become the strong, resourceful person that she really always was, and just needed this external stimulus to bring out.
In all, it is an awesome read that really gets you in tune with Frieda’s struggle with the undead. There are a few minor zombie-centric details, such as the believability of the actual virus and the way that the zombies act that could have used some reworking, but as I said before, zombie books are more about the live folks rather than the undead. In that regard, McNeil did a wonderful job.
4 out of 5 stars
Waiting for Daybreak by Amanda McNeil
Paperback: 172 pages
Special thanks to Ms. McNeil for the review copy. To follow along with the rest of the blog tour, click on the image below.