Rot & Ruin (Maberry)

AUTHOR: Jonathan Maberry
SERIES: Benny Imura, book 1
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442402331
PAGES: 480
SOURCE: purchased copy
GENRE: horror; zombies
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS zombie fans

SUMMARY: In a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic America, 15-year old Benny Imura reluctantly becomes apprentice to his older brother Tom, a famous zombie bounty hunter.

REVIEW: Unique and action-packed! I enjoyed Rot & Ruin thoroughly, and my students have been checking it out like crazy. We currently have seven copies, and all are checked out. We also have seven holds for it, so I have ordered four more from Scholastic. Zombies are huge right now (can I say “I told you so”?), and at least for me, there just isn’t enough zombie lore out there right now for middle school audiences. The inclusion of Rot & Ruin on the Texas Lone Star Reading List could not be more timely.

The story has plenty of action, gore, and even a little romance. I love how Maberry incorporates sympathy for the witless, bite-obsessed zombies. Though they will try their best to kill you, they are not the bad guys.

Personal relationships and character growth are driving forces in Rot & Ruin. Maberry takes his time developing Benny’s character from an ignorant, spoiled child to a thoughtful, mature young man. I always love stories featuring complex, realistic sibling relationships, and this one fits that bill nicely. As for the girls, Nix and Lilah are not your typical teen queens. Survivors by design, both girls kick butt and never back down or let their fear get the best of them. The conflict Benny experiences between the two girls will be interesting to watch in Dust & Decay and Flesh & Bone.

If I had any complaints, I would say Rot & Ruin is a little slow at times, and readers will need to be patient with the storyline occasionally. To those readers, I would also say that those slower points are very necessary to plot development. Crafting such a unique world with extraordinarily developed characters takes time. Also, it is a zombie book, so gore comes with the territory. If gore bothers you, I doubt you’d be reading a zombie book anyway, right?

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you like post-apocalyptic books that take their time developing character and world-building, you’ll love Rot & Ruin. With plenty of zombie-gore and murder, it’s definitely not for the squeamish.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have seven copies, all checked out. Seven holds at present, and four more copies on-order. I have three copies of Dust & Decay, all checked out as well. Flesh and Bone just came out, and we have three copies on-order. I guess you could say it’s POPULAR!

READALIKES: The Enemy (Higson); Ashes (Bick); The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Ryan); Strange Angels (St. Crow)


  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5


  • Language: mild-medium; some language is lightly-sprinkled throughout (no F— or Sh– that I remember)
  • Sexuality: mild; some kissing, the drawing of The Lost Girl Chase Card shows her sporting very large breasts and ripped clothing
  • Violence: very high–plenty of murder, gore
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
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