SAT words and occult trappings characterize this middle-grade zombie adventure from teen author Krovatin (Venomous, 2008).
On an electronics-free school trip to the Montana wilderness, sixth graders Ian Buckley, PJ Wilson and Kendra Wright quickly break the first rule, straying off the path and into the forest. Separated from their classmates, the trio is relieved to stumble across a cabin in the woods, until they discover a skull in the basement and a mysterious journal that tells of shadows in the forest—and, of course, zombies start beating on the front door. With the journal in hand, the three kids begin hunting for the witch they believe controls the creatures and their fate. Though the story is told from the three kids' alternating points of view, the voices all have the same flavor and would be unidentifiable if not for the chapter headings. There’s simply not enough personality behind the three 11-year-old protagonists to make a distinction. Describing a wall as "infected" and introducing words like "ideating" and "sigil" (Kendra is building her vocabulary) jar just enough to break the otherwise compelling pace. Indistinct voices and questionable word choices aside, the author does manage to keep the pages turning all the way through the end.
Toning down the edgy side for a young market, Krovatin stills provides moments of gross-out gore in this reluctant-reader pleaser. (Adventure. 10-12)