Review: Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart


Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014.

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To be honest, I expected Jeff Hart’s Eat, Brains, Love to be a bit fluffy and definitely silly… Blame this assumption on the cover. Because, while there is a certain goriness to concept of the cover, it really didn’t give me reason to assume that the book was really deal with the typical gory zombies. I will happily admit that I was completely wrong in my assumptions about Eat, Brains, Love: it’s funny, it’s romantic, and it’s gory in the very best ways.

Eat, Brains, Love is told from two different perspectives: Jake, the recently undead, and Cass, the psychic government operative who hunts the undead. Jake’s on the run with Amanda Blake, his super popular classmate, who just happened to turn zombie during the same lunch period as he did. After eating half of their friends and peers in a zombie haze, Amanda and Jake revert back to the normal, clear-headed selves with no other option but to flee. Enter Cass, who works for a secret government team that cleans up situation like the one just created by Jake and Amanda. The team tracks down and takes out the zombies, but not before altering the memories of the humans involved so they overlook that zombies exist at all. Cass has been doing this job for years and she’s proud of it – she keeps people safe and gets rid of monsters – but, with Jake, Cass finds herself doubting everything she’s always believed. Cass’s psychic abilities allow her inside Jake’s head and she’s surprised by what she finds there. Sure, he’s a zombie and he’s killed a growing number of people, but he’s also just a guy. A guy that Cass can’t help but like and who, at least most of the time, doesn’t seem like a zombie at all. While Cass struggles with her connection to Jake, he and Amanda are struggling with the unexpected turn their lives have taken, the guilt from having massacred their friends, and the hunger that sometimes fades, but always returns.

I’m pretty squeamish when it comes to gratuitous gore, but I really liked Hart’s incorporation of blood and guts in Eat, Brains, Love. It was gross, but also funny, which I found smart and, oddly enough, charming. Remember that scene in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp where the two lovebirds are sharing a plate of spaghetti, when they find they’re both working their way up opposite ends of a spaghetti strand? Well, that happens in Eat, Brains, Love… with intestines. And I thought it was hilarious! That’s the kind of gore you’ll find in this book. It’s a zombie book, so it’s totally appropriate, and it’s not over the top.

I loved that Cass and Jake were the two telling the story rather than Amanda… or maybe I’m just biased because, in the context of the strange love triangle that was developing, I favor Cass. Like me, you might wonder how Hart will pull off a zombie-hunter falling in love with a zombie, but Hart’s zombies are unique in that, until they’re hungry, they’re pretty much normal kids. Kids that heal ridiculously fast and often have leftover blood and gore staining their clothes from the last meal, but kids nonetheless.

Eat, Brains, Love is nonstop action and, while the ending does offer some resolution, it also left me wanting more and very thankful that there is already a sequel in the works. I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that fans of Warm Bodies will love Eat, Brains, Love, but I also think that this book has the potential to win over readers who aren’t as zombie-friendly with it’s wit and charm.

HarperTeen, October 2013, Paperback, ISBN: 9780062200341, 352 pgs.

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