Zharie’s mother began turning into a zombie five days before she died, and Zharie has been seeing the undead everywhere ever since. To avoid these apparitions, she prefers to sit alone in her room in her aunt’s apartment, texting her internet friend, Mini. Returning solo to the dance studio where Zharie and her mother prepared together for West Coast Swing competitions is out of the question. And she definitely isn’t interested in talking to Bo, the boy who just moved into the apartment upstairs.
But when Bo appears to be partially zombified and then mysteriously returns to his normal self, Zharie decides that he might be the key to understanding why she’s plagued by these gruesome visions. Spending time with Bo and his family and friends makes Zharie feel happy and safe, until she witnesses something that shatters her newfound sense of belonging. Finding a way forward will require as much love, courage and forgiveness as Zharie can muster.
Much like the zombies of debut author Britney S. Lewis’ The Undead Truth of Us, Zharie’s journey toward healing staggers, stumbles and trails broken, rotting parts in its wake. The question of whether the zombies Zharie sees are real underpins every encounter with them, and Lewis wrings every possible drop of suspense from this uncertainty as she leads readers to the novel’s final revelation, which is both totally surprising and utterly satisfying.
Lewis’ novel has many strengths, including nuanced depictions of Zharie’s experiences as one of the only Black dancers in the mostly white world of West Coast Swing. Zharie’s dreams and visions, inspired by Dutch impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, are filled with stunning imagery of climbing vines and blooming sunflowers.
Every generation remakes literary creatures of the night anew. Slow burning and surreal, The Undead Truth of Us more than earns the mantle of Gen Z’s first great zombie novel.