After her father gambles the family into debt, Willie traverses a desert crawling with the undead to find him.
Willie, a white teen, lives with her Pa, younger brother Micah, and 7-year-old twin siblings in Glory, a small town fenced off from the surrounding desert. Her mother passed away from the sickness that turns people into shakes—zombie analogs. Shakes roam the desert, and their disease spreads easily; only hunters and barbed wire keep them in check. One day hunters arrive at Willie’s door looking for her gambling Pa—he’s stolen $400, and if it’s not returned, it’s on Willie and her siblings. Willie’s full of gumption, so it isn’t long before she’s decided to go after her Pa. She sets off with a couple of hunters, bluffing that she can pay their full fee. Danger comes at them from all sides—shakes, hunters, heat, and dust storms pummel them along the way. And though Willie thinks she’s risking an awful lot venturing into the shake-filled desert, she has no idea of the unthinkable surprises in store. Die-hard fans of the zombie genre will find a new, carefully hewn setting to sink their teeth into and a gritty protagonist to root for. Tropes abound, but an audacious climax and Willie’s nerves of steel elevate this suspenseful adventure.
A refreshing genre-bender. (Western/horror. 14-18)