In the beginning (ha ha, couldn’t resist), we meet Jenni in shock on her front porch. The shock has been brought on by what her husband has done to their family after receiving a bite “from a bum.”
Just as you think what you’re witnessing is the first “live” victims last moments during the start of the zombie apocalypse (zombpacalypse!), right when you think Jenni is going to bite the big one (pun totally intended), we get introduced to the modern version of the hero on a white horse- a heroine in a white pickup. Somehow in some way, the woman inside the truck gets Jenni moving and we’re off on their adventure.
While Jenni is trying to deal and get over her shock, Katie comes up with a basic plan after speaking to her father via cell phone, but it goes to hell from the one thing that has been true in every zombie story- large crowds + zombies = death. lots and lots of death. and zombie noms.
A brief stop at a convenience store teaches us that people have a lot to learn- introduce the reality of the situation and you will have a non-believer thinking you've gone off the deep end. Sadly, you know the poor delusional idiot will die still in disbelief, even after they witness the carnage at hand (in this case, the poor bastard had a front row seat for his manager treating his co-worker as a light snack).
So after watching delusional idiot #1 run off into a field, the ladies are on the road again trying to figure out where to go. Jenni eventually remembers her stepson, who is in a state park, and then the plan changes into a rescue mission, provided Jason is still alive. A dogdog is also involved, but he's a good dogdog and doesn't create issues. More like a fuzzy traveling companion.
A few more misadventures bring Jenni and Katie into contact with Ralph and Nerit. Their store had been closed for Ralph’s birthday, which probably saved them from the rampant infection that affected the grocery store across the street. Sadly, it has required them to start picking off their neighbors and tourists who have come to the town in an effort to keep zombpocalypse from spreading. For the first time in a while, Jenni and Katie feel safe. After an awkward night’s rest, the mission to collect Jason is back on.
Ralph took the time to map out the best way for Katie and Jenni to reach the state park where Jason is currently and said so long as they don’t detour from this route, they should be able to make it there and back again (you just know Zombie Murphy is out there still mucking stuff up with his law). Ralph also wants them to take his truck and with Nerit, creates a diversion for the women to make it to his truck parked in the back of his store. While the decoy worked for a while, zombies move in and make an attempt to get some tasty morsels, but they are denied.
On their way, they see an infected man in a tiny town and leave him to his demise when they see he has been bitten. Then they hit Emorton, a slighty larger city. Once home to a lot of people, now there’s just a lot of zombies. Zombies who see meals in wheels. Zombies who get told to eat dust and denied a nom.
Upon reaching the state park, Katie and Jenni find out the zombies have made it there, but that Jason is alive. The group he’s with have someone who is bitten and the bitten makes the decision to send their family with the survivors, but in the zompocalyse, delusional idiots will get you killed, even after the mercy that was asked for is completed. Actually, I think that might be applicable in everyday life, just in a different way.
Skipping right along- more random crazy zombies, including a return of the zombies from Emorton, we reach the place where the rest of the story takes place- Ashley Oaks. This place shows what happens when you have a place where people haven’t gone totally batshit crazy yet- you build walls, reinforce them and try to do whatever is needed to remain safe. They even put people on…..well in my mind it looks like a safety harness and a bungee cord got it on….safety gear and stab zombies to scramble their brains (personally, I like my zombie brains sunny side up. ha ha)
Once safely inside, we’re introduced to Travis and Juan, the people at Ashley Oaks and the small, but humble home they’ve set up. And we also get a cameo appearance from their delusional idiot.
Katie and Jenni, along with Jason and Jack (the fuzzy dogdog they picked up along the way), begin to settle into life at Ashley Oaks. Jenni begins to become a little bolder with killing zombies, going so far to have a late night brain scrambling session while trying to see if Travis might be interested in her. It seems that she’s adopting a kill all zombies outlook on life to deal with the horror her now zombified husband inflicted on the family. Sort of like knowing your happy and you know it, but instead of clapping your hands, you're inflicting a bit of the ultraviolence.
When it becomes evident that they will need to beef up defenses, the decision is made to make a run to Ralph’s store to get guns and supplies. The attempt to get Katie's truck separates Katie and Jenni for the first time since we met Jenni on her front porch. Travis and Katie are left to make the run to Ralph’s while Jenni has to remain behind in Ashley Oaks with Juan. Neither are really happy about this and when the flu virus makes an appearance, Jenni is really not happy with how things went down.
After a near miss with a gun (since we didn’t know it was the flu until Katie interacts with Travis), the gang at Ralph’s store, which now includes a police officer, head over to the grocery story to salvage what they can (we also learn that Travis has an aversion to mentioning feminine products, which will likely provide a giggle to female readers who have been in long term relationships with someone of the XY chromosome pool).
Another survivor is found, but they are heavily traumatized because they've been watching the zompocalypse on a looped security feed for a while. An attempt to separate them from the carnage of seeing a loved one's last moments are met with a freak out moment, but they manage to convince the person to come with them, possibly in the hopes the person will return to the right frame of mind.
Supplies are loaded up, guns are loaded up, cop is loaded up, survivor is loaded up and we’re off back to the fortress in progress of downtown Ashley Oaks. Upon arrival, the survivor decides to hell with surviving and causes an issue for those who want to remain living while the pallet of supplies is being delivered into the stronghold. Balancing acts and sheer will keep everyone else afloat and friends are reunited.
Moving right along, we get to meet the local dickheads after Katie puts someone down who got a little too close and became a zombie hors d'oeuvres. A trip into town brings us more survivors courtesy of the local library and a family home. Things were a little bitey in the family home, but the humane thing was completed without the overboard reactions that had occurred before. The local meth culture makes a cameo appearance- one gets their skull crushed from going bitey and the other one goes over the wall against their will.
There is a happy ending though- Juan and Jenni (get it? no? well *thptph*)
Then Nerit appears and it’s not under the best of circumstances. Ralph was tragically killed when he refused to allow people into the story until they proved they were not infected. The people in question had a victim with them who had turned. Nerit explains after Ralph was shot, she let the victim get her revenge before she put her down. Ralph passes quietly into that good night and Nerit learns that at least those who die of natural causes don’t return from the dead. She finds this to be a comfort before she decides to join the rest of the group at Ashley Oaks.
Thus we reach the end of the first book with the understanding that the stronghold must become stronger and a raid party must hit a hotel.
And in case you’re wondering why I didn’t bring up Katie’s dead wife- while Lydia’s death haunts Katie and the guilt she feels which sometimes drives her nightmares…….it doesn’t add anything to Katie’s character. She is who she is throughout the book. Don’t get me wrong, there are changes, but personality wise, Jenni changes far more than Katie does in this book.