Passing Strange: A (disappointed) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Passing Strange by Daniel WatersKaren DeSonne is good at fooling people. She’s passed as the normal girl, the responsible daughter, and even the happy girl. That was before she killed herself.

That was before she came back.

Now, Karen is making the most of her second chance at life–or whatever it is when the dead start walking around.

Things go horribly wrong when her dead friends’ planned social protest turns into a shootout after the zombies are accused of murder. Karen makes it away, but many other zombies in Oakvale are forced into hiding when it becomes illegal to be dead and walking around.

Karen knows that zombies had nothing to do with this crime. And she knows where to go to clear their names. In order to get the proof and help her people, Karen is going to have to wear the ultimate disguise. She’ll have to pretend to like Pete Martinsburg–a known zombie killer. But Karen’s pretended to like people before. The hard part, the part that could land her in a whole world of trouble, will be pretending she’s alive. Karen’s fooled everyone close to her at least once, but will she be able to pull off the charade of a lifetime (or un-lifetime) in Passing Strange (2010) by Daniel Waters.

Passing Strange is the third installment in Daniel Water’s quirky series about the walking dead in Oakvale (preceeded by the first book Generation Dead and Kiss of Life). This book is a departure from the first two in the series and would be a good place to start the series without missing a lot . . . except that this one is so much less than the first (and even the second) book.

Waters has abandoned his usual alternating perspectives and instead spends most of the book narrating in Karen’s voice. Unfortunately that voice is vacuous and sadly under-developed, particularly when compared to the writing from the other books (or even the third person parts in Passing Strange). Karen has had a complete personality shift from earlier in the series with seemingly no reason except to titillate readers. A girl who had previously seemed strong and grounded, comes across as flighty and insipid.

The entire book was erratic and a shocking departure from its two tightly written and well-put-together predecessors. Sometimes Karen is talking in present tense, sometimes the past tense. Sometimes she addresses a mysterious “you” to no effect. To make matters worse story threads that were raised in the earlier books are largely abandoned and sloppily set aside.

This book is a must read for anyone who has been following the series and wants to know what’s happening with their favorite zombies and their traditionally biotic friends (unless that includes Tommy or Phoebe who are barely in this one) but it is also a vast disappointment after Waters’ clever, sharp debut.

Possible Pairings: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Exclusive Bonus Content: I received a copy of the UK edition to review from PriceMinister which is why I’m showing the usual zombie (US) cover (that’s Karen on the cover again by the way) and what I consider the inferior flower (UK) cover. I made a big deal of the wraparound covers from the first two books. Even that aspect fell short here with the cover only utilizing the front of the book this time. Everything about this book makes me wonder what the hell happened to the series I started reading and what the hell Waters is doing. We can only hope for a dramatic improvement in the next book.

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