Undeadly by Michele Vail – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird…

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath.

Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another…except, there’s something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain – Molly’s got an undeadly knack for finding trouble….

You can read an excerpt here.


If this book was a meal, I’d call it wildly under cooked and over seasoned.

The story started out perfectly well – I was liking Vail’s take on Egyptian mythology, and her light-hearted inclusion of zombies in every-day life (tone-wise, think Marlene Perez’ Dead series) – but then, then it all went horribly awry. All of a sudden the story up and dropped everything it had going for it in favor of regurgitating painfully overused tropes, and by the end it was so deep in the paranormal YA rut that it up and buried itself.

But the book this book started out to be – the story of a teen girl working a hilarious day-job at her Dad’s zombie emporium, dodging zombie bites while jonesing for her first kiss – that book I liked. I enjoyed Molly’s teenage exasperation and how her powers were interesting but not all that remarkable, in this world, not to mention her off-beat family and her oh-too-perfect-almost-boyfriend (who was the perfect set-up for disaster). And so there I was, very much looking forward to the looming lightening strike that was about to up-end Molly’s fairly ordinary life – because I wanted to see the aftermath, I wanted to see the shock reverberate through the characters and world Vail had established – but instead of playing out that story, instead of expanding on what she’d started, Vail just threw it all away and turned this book into something else entirely – and that something else was far worse.

So what did this story become, after it pulled a 180? Well, the narrative up and hi-tailed it for a painfully stereotypical boarding school, where kids with power are sent to train and where legacies pretty much rule the school (Vampire Academy, much?). The story then threw a bunch of random, personality-free friends at Molly in an utterly unbelievable spate of insta-bonding (insta-Scoobies!), not to mention it dropped in a brooding, hot, unobtainable teacher love interest, plus a mean-girl insta-Enemy/Frenemy (again can I say, Vampire Academy much?). Oh, and did I mention the predestined fate that ordains Molly as The One Who Will Save Us All? So yes, when this story took a left turn it dove head-first into the trope mire.

So there I was, wading through the muck of predictability in the hopes that there would be something, anything, to make it all worth-while – a plot twist, cool character development, anything – but instead I just kept hearing the voice of the little girl in Strictly Ballroom, the one who said: “A little originality, please!” And in the end, there just was nothing redeeming to find – Molly’s character arc was a flatline peppered by annoyingly convenient stupidity (the so-called mystery was anything but, and yet Molly still couldn’t figure it out?!?), and the plot failed to build to much of anything at all, aside from finally circling back to reveal that thing we all already knew. About the time Molly finds herself randomly wandering the streets of Vegas, doing she doesn’t know what because she’s supposed to fight something she doesn’t know anything about, I just about choked with frustration – there just was nothing to this new story that made it all worthwhile.

But what made it all so much worse was that, even in this new, awful version of the story, I could still see glimmers of something interesting here and there – the teacher who started taking Molly on strange assignments, leaving Molly to wonder if she was being tested or being used; the unstable teen boy ghost stalker who may or may not be deadly – and then the end actually had a part I somewhat liked, where Molly basically had to risk everything to try and fix her worst mistake. So there were crumbs to this story, bits and pieces that I thought were really interesting, but they maddeningly just kept being crushed by the weight of the trope-monster. And all in all it just left me ruing even more what this story might have been.

So as you’ve probably guessed by now, yes, this book frustrated the heck out of me. It just felt like someone handed this author a paranormal YA checklist, and she methodically worked her way through it, checking the boxes off one by one – and there is nothing worse than reading not only a story you’ve read before, but a shoddy copy at that. And yet, I do still find myself wondering what Michele Vail could do, if she just trusted her originality a bit more. So at the end of the day, I am willing to give this author another chance – I just hope her next book is far better than this.

Byrt Grade: B-/B

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Diary of a Book Addict says:

When I first started into Undeadly, it seemed like…a fun and realistic protagonist in the midst of a crazy world infused with zombies and all kinds of zombie mayhem. I started settling into the fascinating depiction of Vail’s zombie world, but as the plot started moving into the oh-so-cliche academy part, things started to go downhill. Fast…Virtually every aspect of Undeadly became incredibly cliche, highly predictable and boring.

Xpresso Reads says:

Undeadly left quite the sour taste in my mouth. Not right from the beginning, where I actually found myself amused by the sarcastic personality of our protagonist, but about half way through I started to get annoyed…