For Christmas, Matt wants a Runesword that will allow him to ditch his control pad and take his level-28 cleric into whole new realms of awesomeness. He gets Snuffles the hamster—who pretty soon turns into Anti-Snuffles, the zombie hamster, who promptly escapes.
This is a problem, as in Matt’s America, towns are surrounded by high walls and patrolled by Zombie Squads. (The back story behind the zombie plague, which evidently began only recently, is elided.) A zombie hamster inside the walls puts Matt’s family in legal jeopardy, so Matt and his pals embark on a stop-and-go search for Anti-Snuffles before he can turn all Edenvale’s pets into deadbeats. McCreely’s execution of his premise is scattershot. Matt relates his tale in an unconvincing, diarylike structure, but there’s no sense that Matt is actually keeping a diary, making it a conceit without any real justification. Perhaps coincidentally, his voice is very similar to another, famous, diary-keeping middle schooler, and Matt seems to suffer equally from a sort of narrative ADHD. Bouts of anxiety over Anti-Snuffles’ depredations alternate with games of Runespell and lamentations at the appointment of his mother as a new long-term substitute teacher. The plot twist that has the best promise of engaging readers emotionally occurs over halfway through the book; those who make it that far may be interested enough to wait for the sequel, but that’s not a sure thing.
This zombie hamster doesn’t have much bite. (Funny horror. 8-12)