Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Serial: Love & Decay (Episodes 1 - 4) by Rachel Higginson

This review is for episodes 1 to 4 of the serialised novella series, Love & Decay. These are all the episodes that are currently released and other episodes will be reviewed separately.

Best friends, Hayley and Reagan, used to be cheerleaders in a small town in Iowa. But then the zombie apocalypse came, and the two girls have to grow in order to survive. Two years after the start of the apocalypse, the they come across the Parker brothers (Vaughan, Hendrix, Nelson, Harrison and King), and despite their initial distrust of strangers, they all bond over a shared love and protectiveness of the youngest Parker, and the only girl of the six siblings, Page. Even in the dark and dismal world they live in, love can bloom, with the third brother, Nelson instantly drawn to Hayley, and the two eldest brothers, Vaughan and Hendrix, both seeming to be competing for Reagan, surviving the apocalypse just became a lot riskier for the heart.

Link to Rachel Higginson's Goodreads page
Link to Rachel Higginson's amazon page

Think of a word, any word that you think could describe a zombie apocalypse story (and comment on the post so I can see what words you're thinking!). Now I bet you that that word isn't heartwarming. Because that is what Love & Decay is, not that there aren't kick ass moments, battles with zombies and a real need to survive, but as well as that this story is heartwarming. So ignoring the flesh eating zombies, and even with them, the story focuses on the bonds formed between siblings, friends and even lovers, so much so that that could be the main focus of the story as opposed to the apocalypse. Basically Love & Decay is a kick ass zombie story for girls. I picked out two quotes whilst reading to help me demonstrate this.
Love is the strongest motivator of all Reagan. Stronger than fear, stronger than hate, stronger than whatever else is out there. Love is more than enough to survive with; its enough to live with. 
The quote is said by the eldest brother, Vaughan, and it is implied by the context that he means both the love between potential lovers (he has his eye on Reagan after all, and the love between members of his family, and his friends.
Suddenly living in the Zombie apocalypse didn't feel like the seventh circle of hell. It felt possible and full of potential. 
After three episodes of keeping him at arms length, these are Hayley's thoughts as she finally gives in to Nelson's desire to love her, and to be loved by her. The two quotes are just small examples of the basis of this story, it isn't just about survival at the end of the day.

The first three episodes are narrated by Reagan, whereas the fourth is narrated by Hayley. At this moment in time I much prefer Reagan's narrative. She's sassy, independent and funny, always dropping in jokes about things that could otherwise be too serious, for example she jokes that her and Hayley deserve extra lives in the apocalypse for being virgins (pertinant in a world where the zombie virus originated from a cure for herpes that went wrong) like in a video game. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy Hayley's perspective, because I did, but she is far more focused on one thing, boys (well Nelson), and just didn't come across as having the same amount of spunk. Then again, the fact that the two girls are such different narrators is a credit to the author and her ability to write from different perspectives whilst maintaining different characters.

It was refreshing to read female characters at the end of the world worrying about silly little things that we all take for granted, but are normally skimmed over and just presumed to still be happening. Any male readers of my review may now want to skip to the next paragraph. Reagan in particular worried about such things as tampons, hair care and shaving. In normal end of the world stories, particularly those on TV, these things seem to magically still happen and all be available all the time, which is pretty unrealistic really. In contrast, Reagan and Hayley both felt self conscious about these things.

There is a love triangle brewing, albeit one with a twist, as the two boys (well men really, all the characters apart from the youngest three Parkers, Harrison, King and Page, are in their twenties) are brothers, the eldest two, Vaughan and Hendrix. I must say that I am interested to see how this love triangle turns out, particularly as they are such vastly different characters. And as super sad as it is to pick teams in love triangles, I still do it, and I even surprised myself with who I chose this time round, this time it was the more serious, less nice (but not by much), Hendrix who got my support, rather than his older, fun loving and flirtatious brother.

I'll be keeping an eye out for further installments of Love & Decay, I enjoyed it and it is a zombie story with a difference!