For more information please visit A.J. Whitten's website.
Everyone at school can’t stop talking about how hot Meredith Willis’s new next-door neighbor, Adrien, is. But Meredith can’t help but think there’s something strange about the cool, sophisticated new guy, and those sunglasses he constantly wears are the least of it. Every time he’s around, Meredith sees things—terrifying things that nobody else seems to notice. And when she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.
But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?
The Cellar by A.J. Whitten is a masterful, horrifying retelling of William Shakespeare's 'Romeo & Juliet'. Originally I was a little doubtful of this novel. Shakespeare and zombies? It was such an odd coupling, especially since the idea of the romantic lead character being played by a zombie was, well, a bit repulsive. However, fears aside, Whitten did a marvelous job mixing the two genres and adding a unique and likable twist to the zombie lore that was filled with suspense, action and a few unexpectedly touching moments.
My favorite aspect of the novel was the characters. They were all highly developed with unique voices that flowed through the novel, pulling me into the story with their grief and loneliness. I was actually a little surprised by this in fact. For some reason I saw this as being a very shallow read, but in truth, the characters are all quite complex in their own ways. Most surprising of all for me, however was my love of Adrien the zombie equivalent of Romeo because honestly, I'm not a big fan of the zombie niche. But, unlike most zombies he doesn't stumble around moaning for brains with flesh hanging off of his bones. To the contrary, he's a hunter who stalks his prey, who plots out strategy and thinks towards his future. He's charming, gorgeous and witty with an underlying layer of evil and menace that chilled me to the very core. Might I add, this is not something easily done with the books I tend to read! Every time I read his passages I couldn't help but be drawn to the charismatic character, who shockingly enough grew throughout the story. Who knew a zombie's character could actually evolve? Certainly not me!
Another aspect I loved about the novel was the quick pacing with a writing style that had a fluidity that I found to be quite pleasurable. It brought to life a sense of looming horror and reminded me a bit of watching a Hitchcock movie, slowly building to a climax only to back away and build yet again with even more suspense. The creepy tone of the settings also added a lot to this novel. They were perfectly chosen from mundane things like the dilapidated house next door, the neighborhood you walk through to school everyday and the everyday creatures surrounding us-birds, bugs and even fish. The only thing that I felt lacked in the novel was the point of view shifts. While it was a nice way to capture the various complexities within the characters, at times the shift from first person to third person was a little odd throwing off the pacing and lfusidity of the novel.
While this book is geared more towards young adults, I say to older readers to not be put off. If you are an avid horror lover you will love the graphic rendering of the zombies as they stalk, eat and wage war against both themselves and the hapless town. Yet, it was this contrast against a YA setting that really intrigued me. It was like watching 'Leave it Beaver' as made by Rob Zombie. Oddly enough making this more grotesque but utterly entertaining all the same.
In the end, regardless of if you love or hate zombies, as long as you are a fan of horror and suspense then this novel is for you! Be sure to check it out and add it to your wishlists.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars
Advisory: Graphic horror related violence