Synopsis: Someone once said that all apocalypses are experienced locally. In the case of Cass Dollar, the nightmare occurred with the violent abduction of two-year-old Ruthie, which she vividly remembers. Only later is young Cass assaulted also by the vague, twisting memories of a much wider conflagration that she herself only narrowly survived. A government experiment had turned the entire California landscape into the hunting grounds of zombie Beaters, but Cass can only think of the helpless toddler she is missing. A deeply arresting paperback original. (Goodreads)
Review: One thing that I'd like to make clear from the start is that this is NOT a YA book. I was under the impression that it was, but quickly realized that I had been mistaken. I would not recommend this for younger teens, probably not anyone under 18. Then again, I knew girls who were reading V.C Andrews at 14 and this is nothing compared to that, so make up your own mind. I will warn you that there is sexual content (short but explicit) and the heroine is a very damaged individual. However, she is a fantastic writer and I would recommend her YA series (which I haven't read yet) if you're curious.
On to the actual review now! I picked this book up after the sequel became available on NetGalley. This is my first book by Sophie Littlefield, but it most certainly won't be my last. I love the way she writes, her characters, the actual story... she's pretty much blown me away here. Yes, this is a post-apocalyptic zombie book. But these zombies aren't hungry for your brains. These zombies like to eat skin. They like to peel the skin off of a living person and eat it. Yes, this is just as horrifying and disgusting as it sounds. Littlefield has a way of never letting you grow accustomed to the world her characters are living in. There is no getting used to the horrifying creatures that hunt them. The details of the attacks are not spared, but described every time. This isn't to add shock value or unnecessary gore. It keeps you connected to the main character and what she's experiencing. She never gets used to seeing the people around her have their epidermis peeled away by ravenous (and fast, good lord I hate the fast ones!) monsters, so neither does the reader. I felt a little bit terrified, a bit sick with fear every time Cass stepped foot outside, waiting for another attack. It's not every book that can make you feel so connected to the characters and their situations.
Speaking of characters, Cass was amazing. She was definitely damaged, she hadn't been a very good person before the apocalypse, and I'm not sure that she's a good person now. Learning about her past was painful. Watching her make mistakes was painful. Following along as she tried to fix these mistakes was both heartbreaking and uplifting. She felt so real. Was she based on a real person or did Sophie Littlefield just spend a hell of a lot of time getting to know this character? I have no idea, but the result is amazing. Cass doesn't just suddenly find the strength she needs to overcome her problems. She stumbles repeatedly, making her journey difficult but realistic.
I became completely immersed in this book. I stayed up all night to finish it and had nightmares once I was done (not a great book for reading before bed). I would say that I can't wait for the sequel, but I really couldn't. I picked it up as soon as I got out of bed and read it in one day. Review coming soon for the second book, Rebirth.