by Susanne Winnacker
Publisher: Usborne Books
Publication Date: February 1st 2012
Source: Teen Book Scene
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Sherry has lived with her family in a bunker for more than three years. Her grandfather's body has been in the freezer for the last six months, her parents are at each other's throats... and two minutes ago, they ran out of food. Sherry and her father must leave the safety of the bunker. What they find is an empty Los Angeles, destroyed by bombs and haunted by "Weepers" - savage humans infected with a rabies virus. While searching for food, Sherry's father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a vineyard where a handful of survivors are picking up the pieces of their "other lives," before the virus changed everything. Sherry must find a way to help her family, stay alive, and decide whether Joshua is their savior or greatest danger as his desire for vengeance threatens them all.Cover Review
I will admit that the black, white, and red color scheme is striking but other than that this cover is just kinda meh. I probably wouldn't pick it up at a bookstore mostly because the artwork makes it appear like a historical fiction novel. I totally thought this was a book about the holocaust until I read the summary. Whoops. Haha. Plus I don't get the significance of the butterfly since butterflies aren't exactly an important part of the story. In fact if I remember correctly butterflies aren't even mentioned once in the entire book.... But I could be wrong.
It seems that lately zombie novels have been trying to rise up as the new dystopian "it" genre and The Other Life is just another one to add to the mix. The summary sounded promising but unfortunately it never really stepped out of the box nor did it succeed in engaging me. The story just felt like a bunch of borrowed story elements from other better zombie and dystopian novels with poorly developed characters added in. In other words: This book just wasn't a winner for me.
The Other Life first starts out in a bunker where apparently Sherry and her family have been holed up for over 3 years. 996 days to be exact. Think that's a little crazy? Yeah, I did too. I mean I get that the government told everyone to go into bunkers until they were told to come out but seriously? You haven't seen the light of day in over 3 years? Or been able to breathe fresh air? You've just been cooped up in a bunker with 6 other people, one of whom is dead? Merely because the government told you to? WHY HAVEN'T YOU GONE FREAKING CRAZY LIKE ANY NORMAL PERSON WOULD?!?!?! *sigh* Not to mention the fact that it seems like the bunker would have run out of air long before 996 days had passed. Or are bunkers not airtight? I don't know. But this is just one of the examples of poor storytelling where I had to totally suspend disbelief. I just didn't buy that a family would have stayed underground that long. Add that to the fact that Sherry and her dad only came up a few days after the family had run out of food and yeah, you can understand why I was annoyed.
Another element that bothered me was the setting and the Weepers themselves. They weren't bad persay but they reminded me way too much of I Am Legend. I can't speak for the book because I haven't read it but the whole time I was reading I just kept seeing images of Will Smith getting chased through New York by fast and intelligent zombie/vampire creatures. Yes, The Other Life is set in LA and not New York and yes, the Weepers oftentimes have fur and look like they're crying, but the differences end there. It just felt way too similar for me.
I was also totally bummed out by the characters and their extreme lack of development. Sherry's character in particular bugged the crap out of me. She was whiny, and selfish, and her obsession with the number of days she hadn't felt the breeze/eaten chicken/driven in a car was so annoying. I think it was the authors attempt at giving her a personality quirk but it just drove me batty. And by the end of the book she hadn't changed or become more independent or anything and neither did any of the other characters. Honestly, the only I did like was the grandmother because she was batshit crazy and I thought it was hilarious.
I hate to put more fuel on the "this book isn't that great" fire but I can't end this review without mentioning the romance. You guys already know I am not a big fan of romance unless it's done right and this romance definitely wasn't done right. Not by a long shot. It was like one day Sherry meets Josh and the next they're snogging in the barn. There was absolutely no development to their relationship and it just felt tacked on. I know YA authors feel like they have to put romance into their novels in order for them to sell but they don't. Really they don't. The Other Life is the perfect example of a book that suffers more from a poor romantic subplot than if it had no romance entirely. :/
Because this review has been so negative I thought I would end it on a positive note. The plot of The Other Life did start picking up in the last 50 pages or so. There were some crazy reveals and the cliffhanger was admittedly pretty killer. I don't think I'll be reading the sequel(s) but I feel like the story actually has some promise from here on out.
As far as dystopian novels go The Other Life is nothing special. It reads like a bunch of rehashed story elements and it doesn't get really good till the very end which unfortunately just wasn't enough to salvage the story for me. I feel like since this book was pretty short Susanna Winnacker could have easily written a lot more in order to add some much needed character development but she didn't which was a bummer. I give The Other Life 2 and a half out of 5 ice cream cones.
Overall The Other Life just wasn't the book for me. However, I can see it finding an audience with dystopian lovers. Probably ones that are more into stories with plot strength rather than character strength.