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BOOK REVIEW: Highway Bodies by Alison Evans

| 19 February 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Highway Bodies by Alison Evans

Bonnier Echo
February 2019
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / LGBTQ+ / Horror

9/10

‘Do you know anything – at all, about what happened?’ The toddler tugs at Hasib’s hand but doesn’t say anything.
I don’t know what to say. It’s something bad, and I don’t want to know how bad.
‘It’s, uh, how do we say it?’ Hasib asked.
‘A zombie apocalypse?’ says the other person.
‘She’s always been better at words than me.’ Hasib tries to smile but can’t do it properly.

Who will you rely on in the zombie apocalypse?

Bodies on the TV, explosions, barriers, and people fleeing. No access to social media. And a dad who’ll suddenly bite your head off – literally. These teens have to learn a new resilience…

Members of a band wield weapons instead of instruments.

A pair of siblings find there’s only so much you can joke about, when the menace is this strong.

And a couple find depth among the chaos.

Highway Bodies is a unique zombie apocalypse story featuring a range of queer and gender non-conforming teens who have lost their families and friends and can only rely upon each other.

 

 

Sure, I have a masculine side, and a feminine side, but neither is going to be my complete self and they’re definitely not halves of me. I just… I’m glad I had the internet to figure out why being called a boy felt so wrong. Just to know there were other people like me, that there was a name for all these feelings, was… really nice. Non-binary, genderqueer. Not broken, not even a little bit.

Zombies in Melbourne, and genderqueer characters relating their stories through engaging voices. Honestly, what is there not to adore about this book?

Throughout this story, author Alison Evans tackles the usual zombie-related hurdles, like hetero-normative assumptions and survival groups, what makes us human, and just how far teens who have been battling to have the truth of their existence acknowledged in the “normal” world will go to ensure their continued survival once the zombies start biting.

Can’ explain it but it’s like he’s a fucken dog or some shit an he’s gnashing his teeth as that growl leaks out from his ribs, an it’s lower than any sound I’ve ever heard a human make. His arms don’ move the way they should. Mum backs away but he’s faster an then he’s tryina bite off her face. His teeth find her neck an her blood is so red. I dunno what to do, I watch an watch as the red keeps comin an it won’ stop; it gets on his clothes an all over everythin, he’s got my mother’s flesh in his teeth.

But it’s not all about survival. It’s also about loyalty and friendships and doing the right thing, and Alison tells the story with enough humour (albeit sometimes gallows humour) to ensure readers won’t become too bogged-down in the hopelessness of the situation.

‘You know, when you finish each other’s sentences it doesn’t help your “we’re not a demon” theory.’
‘I think that’s your theory, Mum,’ Rhea says. ‘We know we’re a single entity of dark forces – the sooner you accept it the easier your life’s gonna be. But why can’t we go to school?’
‘Not that we really want to,’ I say. ‘But, y’know. What with the military presence at your work, well. Questions just seem to pop into the mind.’

I was half-planning on learning how to drive before I turned fifty, and then the world would just combust from all the global warming or whatever. That or we’d all bomb each other, and Earth would just be a crispy wafer floating in space, which would be pretty shit but also, to be honest, a little convenient because then I wouldn’t have to worry about taxes.

Readers of all orientations are bound to be pulled in by these fierce and resilient characters, and those without much experience of genderqueer people are sure to learn a little more of the sensibilities surrounding such existence, all without the story feeling forced or condescending.

She still hasn’ said anythin and I dunno what to say.
I realise I’m wearin the dress and maybe I look weird to her cause I ain’ shaved my bears in so long. Grows fast as shit. But I shouldn’ assume she’s a she. She might’ve – they might’ve assumed I’m a boy.
‘I’m a girl,’ I say to them. ‘Just so ya know.’ I cough once, tyina keep my breathin steady. I never said it out loud before.
‘I know,’ they say. ‘And me too. For the record.’

There were some moments towards the end that could have been a little clearer, in terms of which characters were where, but this wasn’t enough to get in the way of the awesome story being told.

I adore anything to do with zombies, and it’s so refreshing to come across a story that pulls you in so fully and features a range of diverse characters, changing up the narrative of the usual zombie story and making it into something the feels a lot more well-rounded.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of this author’s work.

 

 

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews

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