This novel is the third volume in a ‘teen zombie’ story. It tells of Karen DeSonne, who has killed herself but lives on as one of the ‘undead’, visible, and able to disguise herself to ‘pass’ as a living person, holding down a job and living in her family’s basement. She is part of a community of others who appear to be able, in different degrees, to ‘heal’ after death; they are under attack from bigots who think they should have no rights and try to frame them for murder.
With many themes, a confusing array of characters, and a plot worthy of Wallander, this is a chewy read, dark, pacy and ultimately involving, but one definitely for those with patience for the genre – I felt it’s rather an easy way for an author to have his cake and eat it, while also attempting to address the age-old themes of prejudice against difference: it turns out that Karen is gay too, which casts a poignant light on her suicide.
I had to try very hard to find young testers for this book – several thought it too unpleasant and my eventual reader, who had read the first two books in the series (Generation Dead and Kiss of Life) thought Passing Strange more grown up than the first two volumes which follow the inter-linked stories of individual characters, and more disturbing than them.