A young zombie enthusiast tries to bring about the apocalypse and uncovers a murder plot instead in Wyatt’s middle-grade debut.
Harriet the Spy meets Coraline in this horror romp starring almost-13-year-old Ernestine Montgomery. Intent on jump-starting the apocalypse and with a zombie survival guide already written, Ernestine, with the help of her white stepbrother Charleston, tries to raise the undead from a nearby cemetery. Plans are derailed a bit, however, with the attempted murder of their landlady, and the eccentric, “retired artists, both performing and otherwise” who share their apartment building are thrown under suspicion. Wyatt has created a bright, determined, and emotionally complex protagonist to join the illustrious roster of young mystery-solvers and monster-slayers: Ernestine barely blinks when tracking down a would-be homicidal maniac is added to her apocalyptic to-do list. Past trauma, a delicate mother-daughter relationship, and premeditated violence bring a balance of gravitas to the delightfully macabre narrative without slowing it down. Wyatt makes some awkward missteps in representation, overemphasizing the hair textures—and misbehavior—and skin tones of biracial Ernestine and her mother in comparison to brief eye- and hair-color descriptions for white characters such as Charleston. Despite this, the narrative will have readers asking for the sure-to-come sequel.
A heroine to warm the heart and a mystery to chill the blood. (Mystery. 9-12)