Rummanah Aasi
  There has been a recent trend in mashing up classic novels with the paranormal, especially after the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith . Soon other titles seemed to follow: Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin and Little Vampire Women by Louisa May Alcott and Lynn Messina just to name a few. While I haven't read these titles per se, I have read their reviews and a few excerpts which seem to be humorous in the tongue in cheek sort of way and attempts to perhaps draw new readers into reading the original classics.  So when I saw the tagline for The Cellar by A.J. Whitten as "Romeo and Juliet meet the living dead" on Netgalley, I couldn't help but be intrigued and thought bringing the paranormal and classic mash up for the younger audience might be cool. The Cellar is scheduled to be in print on April 6, 2011. I received an advanced readers copy of this title for the purpose of an honest review.

Description from Netgalley:  Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.
   But her sister, Heather, doesn't share Meredith's repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she'd ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she's dating the living dead before it's too late for both of them?

Review:  The Cellar by A.J. Whitten is a campy, horror book that is no different from the B-rated teen horror movies that are playing in your local movie theater. The novel is clearly plot driven and has very minimal character development. Meredith and Heather are two sisters who have recently lost their father in a car accident. The family is mourning and the various family members seem to be in different stages. Meredith keeps her emotions hidden and tries to be the strong one in the family. Heather, who was present in the accident that claimed her father, is numb and suffering from survival's guilt. Their mother, who is virtually absent both literally and physically in the novel, expressions her emotions by going on shopping sprees. Now enter Aiden, the hottest guy in Meredith and Heather's high school. He is described as being physically attractive and mysterious because he: a) wears sunglasses all the time and dresses like Justin Timberlake and b) drives a red Camero. There is definitely something off about Aiden, which you can tell from the way that he talks and seems to hypnotize others around him. The author does not leave any mysterious behind Aiden's identity and we know right away that he is a zombie looking for his next meal and mate.
  The fifth grader in me who had a R.L. Stine's Fear Street reading phase would have loved this book, but as an adult I didn't like it very much. There are some good suspenseful moments where Meredith finds the little clues to Aiden's puzzle and her budding romance with Sam, her sister's ex-boyfriend. Advanced readers will obviously know what is going on and predict the book's ending long before it unravels for the characters. There are also large plot holes in the book such as how is able to see if he has no eyes behind his sunglasses? How does his zombie powers work? And when does he precisely fall in love with Heather?
  The book does have interesting potential such as explaining Aiden's background and the mythology behind zombies, actually using Shakepeare's famous play as context (the play is only mentioned because it is a school play where..surprise!...Aiden and Heather play the lead roles), and digging deeper into Meredith and Heather's grief, however, the author does not address these topics in depth. I also noticed that the book is inconsistent with it's tone and the writing from too many different viewpoints (Meredith, Heather, and Aiden) hinders the novel.
  Overall The Cellar is a campy horror novel that will disappoint you if you want to take it seriously. It may work well with some reluctant readers, but I don't think it has a wide mass appeal.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minimal language and a few gory, scary scenes. If this would be a movie, I think it would be rated PG-13. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: For a contemporary setting involved with zombies and other paranormal creatures try Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon or for more of a traditional, creepy, zombie novel try The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.
3 Responses
  1. Alison Says:

    Too bad that didn't work for you. Books like RL Stine and most of Christopher Pike books are really only appealing to junior high kids I think. A lot of books just don't hold up well for adult readers. I even found that for some of Judy Blume's books.


  2. Jenny Says:

    How much did I love the RL Stine books when I was younger! Though, just like you said, I'm sure if I read them now my reaction would not be the same. But then again, I'm not the target audience for those books anymore. I think this one might be a little too young for me where I won't be able to appreciate the campy-horror of it all just like I wouldn't with RL Stine. Thanks for this review Rummanah, I was considering getting this one on NetGalley but I think I'll hold off.


  3. Alison and Jenny: I knew I wasn't the targeted reading audience, however, since I work with teens with a wide reading range I thought this book might help reluctant readers. However, the large plot holes and uneven writing made me pass on purchasing/requesting it to my library.


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