A fusion of genres comes together in this zombie apocalypse romance… I struggled with the rating vs. the review… check out why…
Survival Kit’s Apocalypse
Survial Kit Series Book 1
by Beverly Williams
Published July 3rd 2017
by Curiosity Quills Press
Kit is a tortured 20-something with a past that would kill most grown men and she wears the scars to prove it. She’s the perfect survivor of the zombie apocalypse now plaguing her world. In her wanderings she saves a woman and her kids and is invited to stay in the small camp community. There she meets Eric who names her Kit and his brothers, Thom and Matthew who also understand what it is to be abused. As they get to know one another their bond grows into a family.
I was SOOO excited for this book! I’m the PERFECT demographic loving post apocalyptic stories with zombies, plus loving mental illness stories! And the focus is clearly on romance, which I LOVE! So, so perfect… or so I thought… well I was right in a way…
Slice of Life / Post Apocalyptic.
In other words we follow the day to day lives of Kit, Eric and his two brothers as they try to survive after the collapse of society due to a plague that creates rotters when a human is bitten. I loved the slice of life nature to the story. There is plot but it is rather formless and makes the story feel like you are experiencing the circumstances more than you are reading a story. That’s a good thing with a post apocalyptic as the story reads as genuine and everything just feels less contrived. The rotters do have a really great back history and it is explored in the most subtle and genuine way that I have ever read. It felt like Kit and Eric were piecing together the mystery as they tried to survive and experienced different events.
Most of these events were either back history or near the end but there is a definite flow to it that stays true to the slice of life nature of the story. I’m not sure that the back history of the rotters is realistic but it works with the other aspect of the story, the mental health element. It is slower than a typical plot driven book so you really have to be behind your characters the whole way. I enjoyed how the group’s responsibilities developed and how their day to day living adjusted as they found things and their feelings changed about wanting roots. In fact society’s collapse facilitated a lifestyle that this new family would have struggled to maintain in modern society.
The best solutions are the simplest. Officer Bissett’s fourth rule. He told me something else about it: the simple answers usually take the longest to arrive at. “You rarely find an elegant solution without processing some complicated wrong ones,” he’d said.
Kit is the last person who asks permission or for help. She has a plan and finds what she needs and does it. Eric is equally as capable but in a different way, taking the lead on handling dark forces that will rip their camp apart if he doesn’t take care of them. When these aspects smash together it leads to a super cool bit of story arc that resolves their back history in a powerful way.
Mental Health / Romance.
This aspect of the story sneaks up on you. Kit seems like a really great survivalist who would be an asset to any group. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with her mental facilities. Period. Then once Eric comes into the picture her struggles start to seep out as he notices things about her and she’s either forced to share something or push him away. This creates this lovely relationship between Kit and Eric that you ship right away. You want these two together and to carve out some happiness the more you learn about both of them!!
He fingered the design. An etched filigree of stippled flowers, intertwined branches, and leaves crept up the side of my leg. Wild roses. I found the image my brain had been searching for. “Like a wide, tooled leather belt. It goes here.” I swept my arm up from my foot to my calf, to my side, under my armpit, and down the inside of my upper arm, to indicate its span. My stepfather had carved it into my skin over a period of years. He’d kept adding, letting parts of it heal while expanding the design. He’d gone back over it repeatedly until it had the texture he desired.
As more and more of Kit’s history comes to light I realized that this is about more than a struggle with depression or some child abuse. This is literally torture, I’m not really sure how she survived if what she says happened is true. I won’t give away any details but it is graphic and gratuitous. If you struggle with serial killers and the graphic portrayal of their kills then this book IS NOT FOR YOU!! If you LOVE serial killer graphic-ness then you will LOVE this aspect of the story. It became a little much for me. I think this was the extent of which I needed the story to be brutal and base.
Eric and his brothers also had their share of atypical child abuse that was horrifying. Beyond horrifying actually as you learn that there are hidden connections running behind the story. To cope with their past these boys do drugs. Copious amounts of drugs. So many drugs I’m not sure 9-to-5 jobs would have supported their habits and themselves. In other stories it is about drinking but because their dad was an alcoholic alcohol is never mentioned.
I peeked in the bag. Sliding around the bottom of it was a delicate silver ring with a small tumbled opal set into it. I felt something akin to panic, but it wasn’t panic. It was… I didn’t know what it was. It was the adrenaline of a panic attack, but it was a positive feeling. I still don’t know what to call it. “I want you to be mine. Like, my wife.” He looked insecure for once.
Really though if the drugs had been left out there is this beautiful story of how a relationship saves two damaged people. Not by protecting them and keeping them from physical harm but by providing the love and support they’d never received before. When space is needed, space is given, when a little pressure is needed, just the barest of pressure is given and if that is not enough they back off. This was a really well done part of the story that was engaging and believable to me.
Okay, unfortunately none of this makes the mental health in this book accurate or the way they handled things in the end healthy. And definitely not mixing the cocktail of drugs with depression and suicidal thoughts. That can result in manic episodes and a steep dive to the pits (the drug use not thoughts of the past.) The tar pits was a fascinating way to discuss thoughts of depression. And in many ways accurate. When linked to specific events though no victim WANTS to linger on these events. Looking at the book as a whole the mental health was all over the place and the elements didn’t mix accurately.
When the first drug use was brought up I was shocked because Eric and Kit were NOT safe but in the middle of a mission! Why did she take it? Just because it’s different… Umm where are your survival instincts? They desert her when it comes to drug use. Later they lie on a bench where rotters can wander by to kill them high on all manner of pills. There seemed to be an endless supply… Just as I’m about the forget about the drugs these sensible characters are doing right where it could get them killed but CONVENIENTLY never does then BAM! there is another sudden (if inventive) use of drugs.
Graphic Sexual Primer.
This was the most disturbing aspect of the story. I’m not sure what is considered spoilers when it comes to talking about the sexual acts in a book… This is a NEW ADULT book, not what I would call YA (which is what I thought it was…) so sex to me is expected (if only i knew that NA was its genre!) This book though is a sexual primer. Each sex scene was unique and taught a new sexual act. I don’t see this as a plus but some may. Like the drugs they were spaced out but near the end got frequent and even MORE graphic. I seriously thought about DNFing at 80% but thought no, you’ve read this far, you’ll want to read the end… the sex scenes at the end made me regret NOT DNFing the book.
This is what I said at 84%: “It’s seriously tempting to DNF this book… the long, long pages of sex or drug use still continue this late in the book. Very consistent and all but I’m just not into reading other people have sex or extol drug use… there is some really great story here but it’s mired down by the rhetoric that is pumped into the other moments in the story… I feel preached to.”
From the very first pages of the book I felt like I was being preached to… this kind of rough beginning where the character is stuffed full of every thought of the writer is not uncommon. Most of the time I read past it and then rejudge the character based upon their actions and the thoughts that remain once all that philosophy info dump is done. This time it kept cropping up as regularly as the drugs and sex… it wasn’t a part of the character per se so much as suddenly these ideas would crop up in Kit’s thoughts. I don’t mind if your story pushes an agenda but make it ring true.
“It was funny, though: the rest of the camp would certainly disagree, but neither the brothers nor I wanted to restore electricity to what we’d had Before. In spite of irritations like the lack of indoor plumbing, we’d grown to like camp life. There was an independence to it, free from the ever-more-strict schedules people had tried to live by Before. We had time to think, observe, commune, and just be, which were activities that didn’t always get accomplished in the stressful rush of civilization as it had been.”
While this isn’t an untrue statement I felt like the zombie apocalypse was contrived to push not time to think but to lay around without a 9 to 5 doing drugs and having sex, picking up whatever was needed in nearby businesses that they conveniently didn’t have to pay for.
I won’t EVER read a book from this author again. As much as I appreciated Kit and Eric’s strengths I didn’t jive with their philosophy.
BOTTOM LINE: Justified Zombie Apocalypse.
Spoiler on the Twist Ending…
Diversity is something I think all writers and book bloggers are interested in. We want to experience as well as include all types of people and explore what certain lifestyles are about. I didn’t want to talk about this aspect of the book in my main review and ruin the twist on the end. Much is made about Eric being the love interest. About three fourths of the way through the book another love interest is brought forth, not as a love triangle but a love sharing… Thom she realizes shares her heart also and not as a brother like Matthew but as a love interest. In the end the three consummate their love. This smacked too much like an erotica romance than it did a new adult. It’s certainly diverse but in a book crammed with different genres it felt like too much.
If Kit is really in love with Thom then where do the boundaries between being in a brother/sister relationship vs. a lover relationship lie? I felt really betrayed by the sudden change in their relationship status. Sure its for Kit to decide but as the reader it spoiled my love for Eric and Kit…
Thanks to Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.