Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zombie Tag - Review

Title: Zombie Tag

Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Release Date: December 20, 2011
Format/Page Count: Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Synopsis: Wil is desperate for his older brother to come back from the dead. But the thing about zombies is . . they don’t exactly make the best siblings. Thirteen-year-old Wil Lowenstein copes with his brother’s death by focusing on Zombie Tag, a mafia/
capture the flag hybrid game where he and his friends fight off brain-eating zombies with their mothers’ spatulas. What Wil doesn’t tell anybody is that if he could bring his dead brother back as a zombie, he would in a heartbeat. But when Wil finds a way to summon all the dead within five miles, he’s surprised to discover that his back-from-the-dead brother is emotionless and distant.  In her first novel for younger readers, Moskowitz offers a funny and heartfelt look at how one boy deals with change, loss, and the complicated relationship between brothers. (From GOODREADS)
Expectation: Extremely high. Poor Hannah Moskowitz had a LOT to live up to--most recently, INVINCIBLE SUMMER. It's hard to live up to the expectations of a reader who loved your last work.    
Market/Genre: Middle Grade, Zombie, Hannah Moskowitz Brothers (Yes...Hannah seems to be starting her own genre. And doing frighteningly well at the dynamics between brothers) (-:
“Graham and I spit on our hands and promised we would never, ever grow up. He’s not going to get out of that just by dying.” ~ Hannah Moskowitz, Zombie Tag

“Talking to you is like talking to myself.” ~ Hannah Moskowitz, Zombie Tag (This is a truism for ALL brothers in the throes of their child years together. It’s a shame we forget it when we grow up.)

ZOMBIE TAG has very little to do with zombies. Don’t tell Hannah Moskowitz I said that. I will deny it vehemently.

This was, quite frankly, a beautiful read. You can see by the synopsis that it really does have a lot to do with zombies. But the undercurrent of this book is not quite an undercurrent. It screams to the reader from the gate. This is a Peter Pan tale. This is a story about the complications of being a brother, and about not ever wanting to lose the bonds that brothers have in childhood. It’s about knowing when it’s okay to be intimate with your brother and knowing when it’s not okay. It’s about knowing when to wrestle and hurt each other. It’s about sleeping out in a tent under the stars and talking to each other about the wonders of life and the fear of death when it’s dark and you can no longer see each other and you know precisely what the other one looks like; the expression on his face, the way his hands are worrying into fists and stretching out into wings at his sides as he describes the way he thinks death might be. This is a story that every brother should read. And a story that everybody who was never a brother of a brother should read so they know that boys can have big hearts too, boys can be intimate and filled with dreams too.

Okay. What you see above is not quite a review. It was more about the emotional rollercoaster I went through yesterday as I read ZOMBIE TAG. I’m still relatively new at reviews. I’ll try to bring it back down to earth now.

Wil. Wilson. He’s a kid who has lost his older brother. There is the story. Moskowitz sets up the world in which Zombie Tag takes place with amazing skill. The reader is brought into this contemporary setting that is almost like home. In it, children are playing a game created by young Wil (& his brother, Graham). Zombie Tag is the game. As soon as I started reading those first scenes, I was brought back to my childhood. I could perfectly envision ‘our’ group playing Zombie Tag during a sleepover—creeping through the dark house crying out for BRRRRAAAIIIINNNNSS and banging on closed ‘barricaded’ doors, searching for humans to feed off of. The whole time, our parents sleeping obliviously in their bedroom. It was so real, I could almost swear we did this!

There is, though, a little difference between the world we live in and the carefully constructed world in which Moskowitz chooses to put us in with this story. The world where Zombie Tag takes place has a past history of real live zombies. Around 30 years ago zombies walked the earth for a brief time. There is no real solid evidence, though, of what went on from the time they left their graves to the time they were discovered dead in another location. There’s just the empty graves and the bodies in a different location. Clearly, zombies HAD walked.

Wil and his friends have fun playing Zombie Tag, but Wil has ulterior motives. He LIVES zombies. He devours everything he can find out about zombies. He misses his brother SO much. If only…

Moskowitz puts the reader deep into the land of brothers with this story. Through Wil, we understand what it’s like to be both beaten and protected in the same day by one’s older brother. We see those soft moments of whispered words between brothers, and we see those moments of meanness that older brothers dole out just to see the younger brother squirm. And we understand that under all the crap, under the beatings and the name callings and the leave-me-alones there is this bond that can not be broken. Not by the span of years between you and not in death. Wil suffers terribly over Graham’s loss, over the loss of his protectiveness and the loss of his soothing and the loss of his its-gonna-be-okay talks. He might even suffer over the loss of the not so nice things that Graham put him through as his big brother. That’s what it means to have a brother. There’s good and bad and it’s very easy for this brother to imagine missing both, should they be suddenly taken.

Yeah, this is a tale of zombies. It’s a tale for children and teens and near-teens. But it is also one for everybody else. And it is also NOT a zombie tale. I’m not going to tell you a whole lot about what goes on in Zombie Tag. I’ll just say that Wil DOES discover a way to get his big brother back. And that he is faced with a dilemma bigger than that of suffering the loss of his big brother, once he does bring him back. With the friends he played Zombie Tag with, Wil will figure things out.

It’s hard to grow up. It’s one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. And when you make a pact with your big brother to skip this part of your life, you REALLY believe it. You believe it because, in the moment, it just seems right. You don’t want to lose those whispered conspiratorial moments with the boy you look up to. You want to be able to be comforted by that larger than life hero for forever. Because nobody can comfort him like he does. You want to run to him at night when you have a nightmare, no matter how old you are, and get under his sheets and feel safe. But Moskowitz knows this isn’t possible. She weaved a perfect Peter Pan tale with ZOMBIE TAG. It will pull on your heartstrings long after you finish the book. For me, it was a wickedly poignant look at brothers. I don’t know how Moskowitz is so wise and knowing when it comes to the relationship that two brothers have…but she is a master at it. Her mastery was witnessed in BREAK and in INVINCIBLE SUMMER and, now, more than ever, in ZOMBIE TAG.

Don’t let the MG market rating fool you. If you are 40 or 90, you’ll love this book. I’m going to call it a classic. Some may scoff. Some may say a classic can’t have cartoon boys on the cover. A classic’s cover wouldn’t depict one boy hitting another boy over the head with a spatula. But I defy you to prove me wrong. READ IT. You’ll understand where I’m coming from. The Peter Pan in me wants to laugh and cry, simultaneously. The brother in me wants to buy more copies. I have 3 brothers. None of them are dead and none of them are zombies. But imagining myself in Wil’s shoes kept me completely invested in the story. Thank GOD I’m not him. And thank Hannah Moskowitz for an incredible read, yet again!


SIZE: 5 (.5)
Expectation was blown out of the water. This should be on Young Adult shelves and Adult shelves too. It's Christmas soon. My brothers and I don't usually exchange gifts. I'm sending a print copy of ZOMBIE TAG to my older brother. I know he'll 'get' it. (-:


  1. fantastic review, but I already knew i would love it, because i love all hannah's books. :)