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Literature / Generation Dead

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Generation Dead is a surprisingly good first novel (and now a series of the same name) by Daniel Waters (no, not the same Daniel Waters that wrote Heathers, this is a different one) in May 2008. The premise of the story is simple: an unexplained phenomenon causes recently deceased teenagers to come back as zombies. This is no ordinary horror story though - these zombies are a lot like other teens, except they've got a lower body temperature, don't need to eat or sleep, often speak or move a lot more slowly... and, oh yeah, have even fewer protected civil rights owing to the fact that they're still considered Legally Dead. Their parents aren't even required to take care of them anymore, and yes, some of them go abandoned. Ouch.


Mixed up in all this of course, are the people whose generation is the one that's starting becoming literal zombies: American teenagers. Specifically, those going to Oakvale High, which we're told has a very good program for the "living impaired". Main characters include a number of "differently biotic" kids, especially high-functioning ones like Tommy Williams and Karen DeSonne (who talk almost normally, and in the former case, even tries out for the football team), as well as a few living kids, such as Perky Goths Phoebe and Margi, and their football star childhood friend, Adam Layman, and his former friend, the bully Pete. Phoebe has a crush on Tommy, Adam's in love with Phoebe, both Phoebe and Margi have trouble dealing with the fact that their friend Colette came back as a zombie, and Pete? Pete's going a little off the deep end...


If it sounds like a soap opera, though, don't let that put you off; it's surprisingly light and funny... when it's not punching you in the metaphorical gut.

It has a sequel, Kiss of Life, which was followed in June 2010 by a third book, Passing Strange.

Not at all related to the Teenage Zombies videogame.

The number of Death Tropes is obviously high:

  • Back from the Dead - a good chunk of the cast start out this way. For some reason though, it only happens to teens.
  • Only Mostly Dead - technically the zombies are all "mostly dead" - even actually declared legally dead - though it's probably Adam's death and subsequent undeath at the end of the book that fits the trope best.
  • Death Is Cheap - both subverted and played straight, given that only teens can become zombies when they die, and even then, most of them haven't.
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  • Deader Than Dead - any zombie that has his or her skull bashed in is a goner.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him the Plucky Comic Relief guy, of all people. Told you it gives you the occasional punch to the gut....

Other tropes:

  • Applied Phlebotinum - both averted and parodied. While the book doesn't ever explicitly describe what it is that causes one to become Differently Biotic, the many ridiculous theories scientists come up with while scrambling to explain how kids can not only come back from the dead, but get by without breathing, eating, sleeping or having a pulse, or why it's only teens that end up as "living impaired" individuals, are covered. And they tend towards the kind of ridiculousness that would, of course, be Applied Phlebotinum were any of them actually true in the story. Proposed causes ranged from "they played a lot of First Person Shooters" to "it's a combination of hormones and fast food!" to mold spores. The Character Blog expands on this list to include, among other things, "generations of people eating microwaved food".
  • Attractive Zombie: Some of the high-functional zombies, most notably Tommy Williams and Karen DeSonne.
  • Bury Your Gays: Literally buried, but they get better though they aren't guaranteed immunity from hopeless crushes.
  • Big Eater: TC and Stavis are implied to be this by Pete.
  • Character Blog - Zombie character Tommy Williams's website at actually exists as a real-world Blogger site, and yes, you can post and apparently have "him" respond.
  • Character Development: Arguably Pete to some extent. It's fairly obvious Book 1 Pete and end of Book 3 Pete aren't the same person.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe - not actually supported in the book per se, but Tommy certainly seems to think that love is the reason he and Karen are so high-functioning while other zombie kids like Colette aren't.
  • Cliffhanger - The first book to a some extent, and the second book to an almost maddening extent, particularly when you consider how slow the first half the second book seemed compared to its climax.
  • Deadpan Snarker - Tommy and some of the other zombies have this tendency, ironically, as does to a lesser extent Phoebe.
  • Fantastic Racism - Society is unsure how to handle the "living impaired" kids, and some of them are freaked enough (or religious enough in a fundamentalist vein) to exhibit this, with the primary antagonist even deciding at one point to re-kill some of them.
  • Friendly Zombie: All the zombie teens are like that; they have no Horror Hunger and just want to lead a normal teenage life.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - when it looks like Phoebe's going to get shot in the head, Adam takes the bullet instead.
  • Gayngst: Karen gayngst + clinical depression + zombie-ism
  • Incompatible Orientation: Popeye and Tak
  • Jerk Jock: This trope might as well be called the Pete Martinsburg, he shot and killed Adam and showed no remorse up until the end of Book 3.
  • Lovable Jock: Adam is this trope personified.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Karen
  • Love Dodecahedron - Phoebe likes Tommy and Adam, and they both like her back. Margi has a thing for Adam, and Karen pretty much has a crush on Phoebe, Collete, Sylvia, Tommy (who also likes her as well), and Tak. Tak likes her, but he's being crushed on by Popeye.
  • The Needless: Being undead, the zombies don't need to eat, drink, or sleep.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The zombie teens.
  • Our Zombies Are Different - They're basically like ordinary people with certain impediments and a few odd quirks, such as having no body heat or pulse and, oh yes, having come Back from the Dead.
  • Perky Goth - Phoebe and Margi both fit this trope to a T.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad - flirted with a tiny bit, with "zombie" being close to the equivalent of a certain d-word and the n-word (i.e. it's mostly the members of the group themselves that feel comfortable using it, otherwise it's seen as politically incorrect and offensive), and with terms like "living impaired" and "differently biotic" (the latter of which is a play on "differently-abled") coming into use.
  • Replacement Goldfish - a very odd variation of the Replacement Goldfish theme, actually: antagonist Pete is so against the DB kids partly because he lost his first love Julie right before the phenomenon started so that every time he sees one, he remembers how she's not back from the dead, and his increasing anti-zombie sentiment? Oh, that's largely because he keeps associating Phoebe with Julie, to the point where he eventually starts hallucinating she is Julie, and referring to her by that name, and, being naturally overprotective of "Julie"....
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend - Adam, who spends a good portion of the book either pining over the (clueless) Phoebe, or being really jealous of she and Tommy's burgeoning relationship. As of Kiss of Life, Pheobe has broken up with Tommy, feeling that he only dates a traditionally biotic girl to push the envelope, and begins a relationship with a now-zombified Adam.
  • Verbal Tic: The zombie teens... speak... with... unexpected... pauses. It's considerably less prominent in high-functional ones (like Tommy and Karen), but even they all have it to some extent.
  • Wham Episode - arguably, the end of each book has functioned as this, especially with the second book, Kiss of Life, being a tad less light-hearted.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal - If the zombies got a wound during death, they keep it after they come back. Which often means that zombies that got burned to death or had the skin from their faces scraped off somehow stay that way. Also, the zombies cannot heal from any wounds they receive as zombies.
    • As of the third book, Passing Strange, Karen DeSonne is shown to have the ability to heal, at a rapid pace, even from serious injuries like getting shot in the face, with no medical assistance.


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