I love all things zombie and The Walking Dead TV series on AMC certainly gives me my fill every week. Even when I think I can’t watch any more because I’ll get too scared, I’m sucked in and then I’m talking about it with a friend the next day. A lot of the teens at the library where I work watch the show and read the graphic novels. In recent episodes one of the characters, Carl, asks for more comic books when other go out on a raid, and Carol reads to kids at a story time… before she also teaches them some crucial defensive knife skills! This got me to thinking about reading in the time of a zombie apocalypse. What do you do: read as many zombie novels as you can find because that’s how your life is now? Or read to escape your horrifying world?
The Walking Dead TV series, and comics to a certain extent, exist in a world that requires a bit of stretching of the imagination. There are zombies, after all. In keeping with that imaginations, here’s my hypothetical episode for this week: the gang goes on a raid into town looking for food and supplies when they stumble across a public library! Rick decides they should all get some reading material to get them through their brief downtimes when the zombies aren’t trying make dinner out of their brains. Fighting their way through a crowd of zombie librarians, they get to a safe space to hole up for a while: the YA section! Here are my recommendations for what each character should read.
Rick – He’s been shouldering the weight of responsibility for the group for a long time and it’s been hard for him. He’s had hallucinations of his wife and had to make some hard decisions. I’d recommendation something that is a complete and over-the-top distraction for him, like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber. This has just enough shoot ’em up action that he would be interested, but it’s different enough that he may be able to distract himself from the hardships of the real world. Another option would be Moira Young’s Dustlands series, if for no other reason than to remind him that the end of the world could be worse– and at least he has his little farm!
Darryl – Darryl is a tough guy, but his care for Carol and Judith shows that he does have a heart. He may like classic middle grade novel Where the Red Fern Grows with its heartbreaking story of hunting and dogs. Or if anyone can handle the themes of abuse, fear, and general grossness of Rotters by Daniel Kraus (2012 Odyssey Award winner), Darryl is your man.
Carl – Carl is growing up so quickly right before our eyes and often it’s because he’s stuck in this terrible situation. He’s already had to make some pretty tough choices and wields a handgun like his dear old dad. I think Carl could use a couple more positive and less violent role models to emulate as he grows. My recommendations are Michael Rubens’ Sons of the 613 and Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars (a 2008 Best Book for Young Adults). If he lets himself relax into these books, I think he can grow up into a man and still have emotional depth.
Michonne – It’s hard not to recommend Jonathan Maberry’s Benny Imura series (Rot and Ruin was a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick) to Michonne based on the samurai swords alone. But I think Michonne is a complicated character who has varied interests. Right now, her interests seem to be all about revenge, so I’d recommend The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (2009 Printz honor) and Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, letting Michonne experience vicarious revenge through those books’ characters.
What do you think? Should the characters of The Walking Dead commit themselves to reading only post-apocalyptic novels in an attempt to learn all they can from those fictional worlds, or let themselves be carried away by the power of something entirely different? At least, that is, until those zombie librarians find their hiding place!
-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Ask the Passengers by A.S. King