There’s something inherently worthwhile about a story that analyzes the day-to-day life of a teenager, particularly a teenage girl. Most of us don’t truly remember what it was like during those tumultuous times of hormones, evolving self image and nagging self doubt. Some of us look back at those days with rose colored glasses and others, myself included, remember those days as a kind of hell I couldn’t wait to escape from.
Patrick Freivald’s Twice Shy is just such a look inside the life of a teenager. It just so happens that in this case, the teenager in question is also a zombie. Now before you fill your head with the traditional image of a mindless, shambling undead corpse, let me point out to you that this protagonist, a young girl named Ani, is just as intelligent as you or I. Sure she has to deal with the occasional necrotizing flesh and hunger for brains, but in most ways Ani is just like you or I.
Ani is part of the goth crowd, a clever cover-up to her undead condition; with a best friend named Fey, a crush on a football player out of her league, and even a stalker-like fellow classmate with a crush on her. Her mom is stern yet understanding and, I should probably point out, a researcher working on a cure for Ani’s zombified condition. Ani likes to paint, secretly loves pop music and works at a local comic book store.
Ani’s normalness accomplishes two things during the course of the story: It informs the reader right from page one that Twice Shy is a little more Twilight and a little less Walking Dead. I’m not going to lie to you; that will put some readers off expecting a more traditional action-packed zombie tale. That said, based on the attractive but very cute cover art and the playful title, I don’t think very many of you will be buying this story expecting a lot of severed limbs and violence.
The second thing the day-to-day exploration of Ani’s teenage life accomplishes is to lull you in a false sense of security. So many pages deal with the thoughts, trials and tribulations of an average teenager that when the action comes –and it tends to come fast and without warning- the reader is left shocked and not-so-gently reminded that Twice Shy IS a horror story. Teen drama or not, terrible things will happen.
I feel the need to bring up the ending in particular as the ultimate example of this. The ending is shocking. The ending is sudden. The ending will likely leave half of you impressed with Freivaled’s willingness to leave us in such a dark place, and the other half of you mad as hell that the characters we invested so much in meet such a brutal end.
Twice Shy isn’t Twilight, despite the similarities in setting. Twice Shy is gripping, daring and one of the more accurate portrayals of life in high school I’ve read. Come for the zombies. Stay for the storytelling.
Score: 85 out of 100