Angelella creates a weird brew here, featuring an eight-fingered priest, pill and sex addicts, cultish rituals and the Byron Hall Catholic High School for Boys.
Narrator Jeremy Barker is beginning his freshman year at Byron Hall, and it’s fair to say he’s obsessed with Zombie films. He can rattle off his Ten Best like nobody’s business, and he’s even created a personal code of conduct derived from his obsession (e.g., Avoid Eye Contact, Keep Quiet, Fight to Survive). In fact, the novel is so zombie-drenched that the titles of his favorite movies serve as chapter titles as well (the one exception being The Greatest Story Ever Told, which a priest has hooked Jeremy into by suggesting that Lazarus and Jesus might be the first zombies ever—think about it). Jeremy’s home life is, to put it charitably, disordered, for his mother is addicted to pills (though she offers up a prayer before partaking), his older brother is addicted to sex, and his father turns most of their conversations into uncomfortable sexual innuendo. Jeremy’s only love comes from his dog, whom Angelella, with irritating cuteness, names “Dog.” Although Jeremy voyeuristically checks out his neighbor, a college student, and falls for Aimee, a student director at the local girls’ Catholic school, his main preoccupation is figuring out what his father is up to, for Jeremy gets evidence that he’s colluding with Mr. Rembrandt, an eight-fingered priest who just happens to be Jeremy’s English teacher.
All of the weirdness adds up to not very much, and Angelella has an irksome habit of nudging the reader in the ribs with his wit and cleverness.