EAT YOUR HEART OUT by Kelly deVos
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Vivian is going to survive. Allie knows it. Because that’s what happens in all horror movies. The strong, determined, fearless girl survives. Because she has to. But the basket case? The girl who’s barely holding it together; the girl who only signed on to come to fat camp because she was so broken up about her rich best friend’s rejection that she chased her all the way to the middle-of-nowhere-Arizona in a sad attempt to humiliate her; the girl who looks at the other five teenagers around her and sees not the only five humans still alive to fight the zombies that have overrun the camp but the characters they would be in the horror movie of their life: Action Girl, the Nerd, the Jerk, the Jock, the Outcast–and the Basket Case, Allie, who will be the first to die.
Indulge my nerdiness for a moment because I want to talk about how brilliantly crafted this book is. I will admit I was skeptical when I picked it up, because six first person narrators? Really? But it worked because of the way it was crafted. This novel is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD at fat camp. If you have not seen NOTLD, it is not only a classic horror film, it is social commentary featuring athletic zombie-like creatures (that do not follow the “rules” of proper zombies). The social commentary elements are woven in through a cast of archetypal characters and a brilliant, perfect ending that I won’t give away here.
EAT YOUR HEART OUT is intentional and self-aware in how it mimics and updates NOTLD, even down to the character archetypes. It starts out with a list of the characters and the likelihood that each will survive which makes it really easy to keep track of who each of the narrators is and to get a handle on each of these characters even though they’re sharing “screen time” with so many other people. The social commentary in this one, as you can probably tell from the premise, focuses on how society devalues fat people–even to the point that death is sometimes perceived as preferable to fatness. There is a disclaimer at the front of the book for anyone who might find this material triggering. For me as a reader, though, I felt like the absurd, satirical tone of the book both “lightened” the dark reality, making it palatable and even fun, and made the darkness even darker, when you think about how the over-the-top horror story has a substantial foundation in reality.
So maybe it’s my love of NOTLD, or my love of satire, or my love of YA SFF, but I was incapable of putting this book down. It was such a thrill! Highly recommend it to others who enjoy these kind of satirical SFF stories!