Brutal. That’s pretty much the perfect word to describe any Courtney Summers novel, but it’s especially apt in this instance. While the zombie apocalypse is used more to frame the characters and their journeys through their own issues and problems while they’re stuck in a school, it’s an effective move and you never really forget the danger lurking right outside the school walls (even if the characters do, at some points.) As with any Summers novel, almost all of the characters have their moments of being downright unlikeable and morally ambiguous, which is what it should be during this kind of thing. They’re not bad people even though they do some pretty bad things; they’re just six kids trying to do what they think will keep them alive the longest, and unfortunately sometimes that means leaving someone else to die if they’re a danger. While I didn’t agree with the choices they were forced to make, I understood why they were doing them and it was hard to read about them doing it. No kid should ever have to decide this stuff. Sloane and Grace were probably my favourite characters, and it says a lot about the writing that I still cared for characters who weren’t really likeable to me--Trace, Grace’s twin brother, being one of them. I felt sorry for him in the end but he made it pretty difficult at times. The one character I think could have used some more development was Harrison, but he wasn’t a weak character by any means. Just one that, unfortunately, a good chunk of the characters ignored or had no use for. Still, like I said, I cared about all the characters and ended up rooting for them. It starts off with a bang and then slows down appropriately, as the mundane life of just getting by and trying to survive is pretty slow. The pace never lags, though; it’s always a good slow, and Summers knows just when to pull out a plot point to get things picking back up again. The climax was heartrending and I couldn’t put the novel down while I read it, desperate to find out how it all ends. If you’re reading it just for the zombies, it might not end up being your cup of tea. It’s really more about the teens and how they’re dealing with the apocalypse and how they’re trying to get through their own issues; the zombies just happen to play a part in that, but honestly, it’s not an overtly huge part. It’s a more character oriented novel, and the characters are what it should be read for. And have a box of tissues handy when you do read it.