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Dearly, Departed    by Lia Habel order for
Dearly, Departed
by Lia Habel
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Two huge trends in YA literature right now are dystopians and zombie stories. However, I think Lia Habel is the first to successfully combine the two ... and throw in a little bit of steampunk. Dearly, Departed is the action-packed start to a trilogy that will satisfy all of your YA genre needs.

A year and a day after Nora Dearly's father died, she finds herself going home from boarding school for Christmas break. Her best friend Pamela is excited about the holiday and the fact that Nora is officially out of mourning. Their tentative plans, though, soon go awry when, due to flooding on the second level of the Elysian Fields (the subterranean gated community in which she lives), Nora is forced to walk home unescorted and is accosted by a strange man with vacant eyes. He says her father sent him.

The next night, the man comes back, this time kidnapping Nora as she is fighting off a wave of undead creatures. Turns out that Bram is also a zombie, but of a different order. Some people, when infected, turn into mindless flesh-munching machines. Others retain their humanity. One of the latter, Bram is an officer in Company Z, a secret military unit used for fighting the other type of zombies, known as Grays. This is quite a lot for Nora to take in, but the biggest surprise is that her father is also a zombie. However, he has gone missing. Before anyone can go looking for him, Nora and her new friends must save her old friends as New London is overtaken by Grays.

There is a lot going on in Dearly, Departed, but Habel handles it well. First, there is her unique dystopian world. As the world turned colder, those left alive were forced closer to the equator. Once they settled on a place to live, they decided, despite their modern technology, to revert back to the ways of the Victorians, calling their country New Victoria. Some, though, did not like this new society and formed their own outside New Victoria's boundries. They became known as Punks and were constantly at war with the New Victorians.

Aside from this elaborate world, Habel also shows skill in character development. Dearly, Departed is told from five different points of view, almost all distinguishable from the others. The only two that seem to run together are Nora's and Bram's, possibly because they are together for most of it, but also possibly because Bram's personality is not as strong as the others. However, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the story.

Dearly, Departed is a unique new entry into YA genre fiction. Lia Habel shows wonderful prowess as a YA author and I am eagerly awaiting the continuation of the Dearly trilogy.

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