PLAY DEAD by Ryan Brown


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You thought high-school football was tough? Try playing against an army of the dead.

Former soap opera actor Brown’s debut could find plenty of traction among YA readers, but it’s too mechanical for literate adults or more nuanced horror fans. Set in Texas, ground zero for America’s obsessive high-school football fans, the novel opens on the eve of (what else?) The Big Game. The Killington High School Jackrabbits are just one win away from taking the district championship, and their secret weapon is star quarterback Cole Logan, a square-jawed adolescent dreamboat straight out of central casting. Then grunts from the rival Elmwood Badgers ambush Cole and cut off two of his fingers. Insanely determined to play, he visits a creepy local celebrity named Black Mona, who magically heals the QB’s injured hand. In a second attempt to derail the game, the Badgers block the path of the Jackrabbits’ bus, causing a massive accident that kills the entire team. Their coach survives, and his daughter Savannah joins with Black Mona (a Jackrabbits fan) to help Cole fulfill his dream of quarterbacking the big game…under slightly different circumstances. Naturally, the whole premise is completely absurd and prompts lines that even Bruce Campbell couldn’t deliver with a straight face. (“They’re dead, Savannah! All of them. The Jackrabbits killed them and they ate them.”) It’s all in good fun, though, and undiscerning fans of football and tales of the undead should have a fine old time.

No masterpiece of horror, for sure, but there’s something to be said for the creaky sense of humor and dramatic earnestness that Brown brings to the page.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4391-7130-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2010