A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the third installment in a zombie series that again includes a high body count and gruesome death scenes -- as well as a whole lot of gazing, kissing, and touching. Everyone in the books has faced death -- and has had to decide to kill or be killed. The intensity rarely lets up in the story, even in the romantic parts, which are more frequent than you'd imagine in a zombie thriller. The overwhelming message of this book -- and Ryan's entire zombie -- series is that even in the face of unrelenting misery, death, and despair, individuals can find reasons to live, love, and soldier on each day. The book's protagonist is a scrappy fighter; Annah can be jealous and insecure, but throughout the book discovers the qualities that make her special, and even beautiful, as well.
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What's the story?
In THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES, author Carrie Ryan picks up nearly immediately after the end of The Dead-Tossed Waves, but this time the perspective shifts to Annah, the twin sister that Gabry didn't even know she had. Unlike Gabry, who couldn't remember Annah, Elias, or her hometown, Annah grew up pretending Elias was her brother and wondering why after his two-year shift with the elite Guardian forces he never returned to her in the Dark City as he had promised. Everything changes when Annah spots her sister being taken by the Guardians for accompanying what looks like a man infected with a zombie bite (really, the immune Catcher). She is able to escape underground with Catcher and find Elias, but he has disturbing news: To save Gabry, they must offer Catcher to the Guardians to help protect their Sanctuary. And this is just the beginning of the difficult choices they face in order to survive.
Is it any good?
Love triangles and never-ending zombie terror are no surprise in Ryan's books; but while formulaic, Ryan really will make readers sweat over whether the protagonists will survive. The romance may be scripted, but it's as satisfying as the action: Annah, like her identical twin, has feelings for both enigmatic Elias, whom she grew up with, and broken Catcher, who needs to heal as much as she does. Annah is a fascinating protagonist; unlike the previous protagonists, she was brought up without a mother, and hasn't had much guidance or unconditional love. Readers will cheer when Annah ultimately ends up with the right man -- and learns a powerful lesson about the importance of loving herself. In the end, there is enough action and romance to get fans to bite, even if the flavor is fairly familiar.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the overwhelming popularity of fantasy romances. Why do they resonate with teen readers? What do these books have in common?
Some critics have said there's too much lust and kissing for a series that's about surviving such an incredible threat as a zombie apocalypse. What do you think? Is the romance believable? What about the male characters?
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