A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Max Brallier’s The Last Kids on Earth series has more humor, character development, and heart than anyone would expect from an adventure featuring drooling monsters and a zombie apocalypse. Jack and fellow 13-year-old survivors cover a surprising amount of emotional ground: Bravery and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, everyone has something to offer the group, crushes can complicate friendships even when you’re fighting the undead together, and treating life as a video game can be cool, but sometimes it’s important to take things seriously. The series is packed with snarky monster fun and great illustrations while delivering on some big themes of friendship, loss, and what it means to be brave. Unfortunately, in the beginning, Jack also shows an antiquated take on how boys treat girls: He has a crush on June and wants to rescue her, but when she says she doesn’t need rescuing, his response is to ignore her wishes and keep pushing into her life. June’s role as a zombie fighter expands and Jack’s attitude toward her matures in later books. The series has been adapted for a TV series on Netflix, set to premiere Sept. 17, 2019, the same day the fifth book in the series is published: The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade.
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What's the story?
Trying to stay safe in a town full of the undead, 13-year-old Jack and his friends soon realize they are THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH. Jack treats the whole thing like a video game, complete with race courses and challenges for points, and with his best friend Quint builds an epically cool tree fort, makes friends with the town’s monsters, and tries to figure out how to survive. Along the way they join forces with the few remaining kids in town: Dirk, the school bully and June, Jack’s crush and a fierce and focused fighter. The kids try to slay the unrelenting army of zombies and stay alive while an ancient evil king won’t stop trying to devour all of planet Earth.
Is it any good?
With eye-catching illustrations on every page and funny dialogue among friends, it would be easy to dismiss this series as standard zombie fare. Jack is out to have fun, and everything is a game to him. But The Last Kids on Earth series delves deep into the minds and hearts of the kids who are fighting for their lives while trying to eat as much junk food as possible. Jack is a foster kid who's had a rough time in the foster care system. His best friend, Quint, is full of quirks, Dirk is the school bully, and June rarely admits she needs help.
The Jack-June portrayal gets better over time, but in the beginning, Jack treats her like something to be won (“I call dibs on her”) and doesn’t listed when she tells him to go away. She sets a boundary and he blows right past it -- hardly the example to show readers navigating their own crushes. Despite the way this stereotypical boy-girl crush plays out, the series is a magnificent, funny, fast-paced look at emotions, expectations, and how building the tree fort of your dreams can really be all you ever hoped. And zombies. Don’t forget the zombies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they would do if they were in a situation like The Last Kids on Earth. What would you do first? Do you think it would be fun to be on your own, with or without zombies?
Who would you want with you on an adventure like this, and why?
What other books about zombies have you read?
- Author: Max Brallier
- Illustrator: Douglas Holgate
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 13, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 21, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love fantasies and zombies
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