My Life as A White Trash Zombie
by Diana Rowland
Cover Artist: Daniel Dos Santos
Review by Cathy Green
DAW Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756406752
Date: 05 July 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Angel Crawford has a problem. She's woken up in the ER with no memory of what happened. She thinks she remembers a bloody car wreck and severe injuries, but when she checks under her hospital gown, there's no evidence of injuries. Obnoxious nurse #1 informs her that she overdosed, and implies that it's about what you'd expect for someone like Angel. Nicer nurse #2 informs Angel that she was found naked by the side of the road and reassures Angel that she wasn't assaulted. Then two police detectives come into the room to question her about what happened and about the decapitated body found further up the road. Paralleling the two nurses, Det. Roth is polite and solicitous and Det. Abadie is rude and dismissive.
After they leave, nicer nurse #2 come back into the room with some clothing, money, a cooler and a note that were left at the desk for Angel. The cooler contains six bottles of what looks like frappaccino with pink bits at the bottom and the note explains that she needs to drink one bottle every other day or she'll get sick and that a job driving a van at the Coroner's Office has been arranged for her and if she doesn't take it her parole will be revoked and she'll be sent to prison where she'll die in a matter of weeks. Just a typical day for a white trash girl in Saint Edwards Parish, Louisiana.
Angel manages to be nearly an hour late for her first day of work but still gets the job and is introduced to Nick Galatas, who will be in charge of training her as a van driver and who's quite full of himself in Angel's opinion. Soon she is assisting the kindly Dr. LeBlanc with an autopsy and much to her surprise, she has absolutely no urge to vomit, unlike Nick, who, Dr. Leblanc cheerfully informs her, lost his breakfast at his first autopsy. Angel is even more surprised when Dr. LeBlanc informs her she came highly recommended for the job. And then somewhat disconcerted to find that watching the autopsy makes her hungry. And really disconcerted and disgusted when the removal of the brain makes her ravenous and causes her stomach to rumble, winning her the title of toughest morgue tech. At this point the reader should be pretty sure what has happened to Angel, even if Angel hasn't caught on yet.
In My Life As A White Trash Zombie, Diana Rowland shows that being a zombie isn't all bad. Angel has a good job, the coroner's investigator she's partnered with, Derrel Cusimano, seems like a nice guy and doesn't look down on her, and there's a cute deputy sheriff, Marcus Ivanov, who just might return her interest. In other words, Angel's life is turning around, it's just too bad she had to die first.
Rowland does a good job of showing how Angel got to be the way she was, and how everything that happened to her and how people in general treated her lead her to be the way she was and to her attitude towards people and life in general. Thanks to social class, problem parents, and circumstances, Angel was written off by pretty much everyone, and developed a preemptively angry attitude as a result. Why not quit a job when you know/expect you'll be fired pretty soon anyway? But as things start to go right for her on her job, she realizes that it doesn't have to be that way. For instance, she's surprised that when she rolls the coroner's van due to a tree in the road, she's given three days paid sick leave, because she was expecting to be punished with an unpaid suspension for wrecking the van.
Rowland also manages to nicely balance both the icky and funny aspects of Angel learning to cope with her new zombified life. Working in the coroner’s office is a huge advantage, since Angel has ready access to brains, which are removed with the other organs and conveniently placed in a bag for easy access. There's an amusing scene where a guy who works at one of the funeral homes tries to convince her that he's entitled to all the brains and she'll have to buy them back from him. The newly confident Angel recognizes him for what he is, a zombie drug dealer, and informs him that he can have the brains from the bodies that were going to his funeral home but she's keeping the rest.
As Angel settles in to her new job and her confidence grows, she finds that she's making friends and getting the sort of respect that everyone else tends to expect as a matter of course, and it gives her the strength to sort out her undead life. There's also a mystery, as bodies with the heads removed begin showing up. At first, Angel thinks it might be a rogue zombie who is not content to wait until people are dead to eat the brains, but then an even more disturbing possibility is raised – could someone be hunting zombies and killing them by decapitating them? Rowland pulls off the neat trick of writing a book about zombies that manages to be funny, disturbing, and poignant by turns. I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel, Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues.