Beautiful Dead by Eden Maguire sounded so promising. A town with an unusually high death rate amongst the teens at the local high school, and some creepy goings on nearby that soon lead teenager Darina to discover that the four most recently deceased teens are back from the dead, in search of closure. Amongst them? Her dead boyfriend Phoenix.
As I said, the story is pretty cool — teens come back as zombies to find out the real reasons behind their deaths; to say goodbye to their loved ones; to find closure. It’s a neat concept, and one that I can totally get behind. It’s also probably the biggest draw for readers of supernatural YA lit.
For me, I never felt like I struggled to care about the characters and what happened to them; I never felt invested in their lives.
The book starts immediately in the thick of the action — without any lead-in. Darina discovers the existence of the teenage zombies (called the “Beautiful Dead”) almost immediately (on page 2, in fact) and the reader is promptly swept into the action. While this technique has the potential to suck the reader in immediately, the effect here is a bit more jarring than it is intriguing.
I think the book’s biggest shortcoming is that I never understand why Darina and Phoenix are so very much in love. Sure, Darina tells us that she and Phoenix are so in love and that they were so meant to be together, but I never see it for myself.
Likewise, because the book begins right in the action — we never really get to know Darina well enough to understand why she’s a worthy narrator. (And frankly, she’s a little bit too whiny, teenage “the world doesn’t understand me” for my taste. Maybe that’s because I’m an adult, but I don’t usually get that sense in most YA books.)
Still, the book certainly has its redeeming qualities — and I think younger teen readers, especially, will enjoy the story without nitpicking details like I did.
So if you want to read a teenage romance with zombies and a bit of action-suspense-drama … definitely check out Beautiful Dead. This is book 1 in a planned four-part series, so I think the readers who do find themselves sucked into Maguire’s world will have plenty to look forward to.
Here is the official synopsis:
Darina’s year goes from bad to worse when her boyfriend, Phoenix, is killed in a knife fight, making him the fourth student from their high school to die that year. She’s certain that she’s going crazy when she sees him and the others in an abandoned barn, but when Phoenix kisses her, she’s convinced he’s come back to life?
Jonas, Summer, Arizona, and Phoenix have been brought back from limbo by the enigmatic and sometimes frightening Hunter, and are allowed to remain in the world of the living for one year in order to set right a wrong linked to their deaths. In exchange for being allowed to see Phoenix, Darina agrees to help the undead teens find justice, starting with Jonas whose year is nearly up.
Darina must discover who is behind Jonas’s fatal motorcycle accident without becoming a victim herself and keep the Beautiful Dead a secret. She would sacrifice anything to help her beloved Phoenix, but setting him free might mean losing him forever.
You can read an excerpt from Beautiful Dead for free online and check out the book trailer below: