There has been a dramatic increase in the last few years of young-adult books based around the apocalypse and zombies. Of this fact I am very pleased. One such book – and one aimed at a slightly younger audience than usual – is The Enemy. The basic concept is that anyone over the age of 15 (for reasons speculated upon but unknown) turned into deranged, cannibalistic zombie adults. Our plot follows a group of survivor kids living in an abandoned supermarket. They are rapidly running out of supplies, and scavenging parties keep getting attacked by groups of adults. One child has recently been abducted by the ‘mums and dads’ – Little Sam – and is struggling to escape and find his way back to the supermarket.
The concept itself isn’t bad. The idea is put forward that an event, with a development time of 15 years, hit the planet 15 years previously – meaning that anyone over that age turned (around the same time) into cannibalistic zombies. Not good. This quite nicely explains why children are unaffected and perhaps means that when people hit the age of 16 now they may not turn – or maybe they will, who knows! The depiction of ‘mums and dads’ are remarkably gruesome, talking about leaking fat, decomposing faces, rotting infections and exploded corpses. They have reverted to pack-like mentalities and live in hordes, roaming the streets in search of food.
The plot is acceptable – nothing to write home about – but the character development is sub-par. Although we are supposed to feel attached and emotionally invested in the characters, it is difficult to get particularly upset when a character dies or gets injured. They attempt to get a little bit of romance on the go, but again, this is not particularly enthralling and you do not find yourself very invested in the outcome of the characters attractions. I guess that there are lower expectations for a children’s novel than an adult one, but I would still suggest that the book is poorly written, even if the concept might have been decent to start with. Other books, written for a similar age range (11-14) such as After Tomorrow (a book about economic collapse and refugees)manages to keep it age relevant while still making it accessible to adults and developing the characters well. Simplistic does not have to mean unengaging.
In the US they have edited the book – increasing the age of the main characters – in order to appeal to an older age group, but I think this might have been a mistake: the writing style and plot is simplistic enough as-is without trying to feed it to older children and teenagers. I wonder if it has worked. In some respects I think this might make a better film than book. Although the book is poorly written, the events described could translate very well to screen and seeing it visually might pack more of a punch than reading it on a page. Considering the popularity of book-to-screen young adult dystopian films recently they could be on to a winner!
Conclusion? Good concept – bad read. Give it a miss, even for your kids.