Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
Gena Showalter

Reviewed by:
On 12 October 2012
Last modified:29 December 2012


Neither whimsical nor brilliant. The best I can say about this book is that I was compelled to skim it to the end.

Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter (White Rabbit Chronicle, Book 1)Neither whimsical nor brilliant. The best I can say about this book is that I was compelled to skim it to the end.

In hindsight, when the the book’s introduction, ‘A Note From Alice’, failed to stir any reaction from me other than, Seriously?, I should have left it at that. But I wanted to give the book a fair go, because look at that cover and think of the possibilities of a zombiefied version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But any link to Lewis Carroll’s original text is tenuous at best. I wouldn’t have cared if the title were a tongue-in-cheek reference to Carroll’s Alice and that was it, but the entire book seems geared towards exploiting this link: the title, the cover image, the tagline ‘Off with their heads!’, and the series name, The White Rabbit Chronicles. If you’re looking for the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Alice Bell’s life changes the night she loses her family to a car accident in which she also witnesses her father being devoured by monsters. In hospital she befriends Kat, the embodiment of your typical tough and sarcastic best friend with a marshmallow centre in a teen novel. When Alice begins junior year (Is that the equivalent of year 11? I always forget) at a new high school, it’s fairly predictable that she finds Kat in the same school.

Anyway, it turns out that Kat’s ex-boyfriend—who you just know won’t be ex-ish for long—hangs out with a group of scary boys and girls, one of whom is Cole. The minute he and Alice make eye contact, Alice has staggeringly realistic visions of them together. Mostly they’re what would pass as wet dreams in a teen novel, but occasionally there’s a spot of portentous violence, too.

This is the point where most readers would have flashbacks to all the terrible teen urban fantasy romances they’ve recently read and put this book down. But I took one for the team, because despite everything else that annoys me about the book—and there’s a lot—author Gena Showalter writes teen lust deliciously well. That said, the actual romance leaves much to be desired—overbearing hero, uncertain heroine, love at first sight, jealous ex-girlfriend, cute rival for heroine’s affections.

To cut a tediously long plot short, Alice and Cole end up working together to fight not just the zombies but a group of humans who, instead of wanting to destroy the zombies, prefer to use them in scientific experiments. No points for guessing the big plot twist here, although I admit to being mildly surprised when the head of the baddie group was revealed. There are shades of Buffy the Vampire Slayer all over this book. It could be a coincidence, of course, but it’s enough to emphasise how much better Joss Whedon is at creating strong, warrior females, complex romantic subplots and a fascinating alternative reality.

The biggest weakness of the book is that the first person narrative never goes deeply enough. I felt no real sense of who Alice is, and her internal conflicts feel shallow and frustratingly unexplored. Showalter doesn’t give Alice the eloquence required to make this point of view work. I didn’t expect Alice to sound like an adult, but I wish she had more articulate things to say than ‘I wish…yeah, I wish.’ What’s worse is that the teen-speak sounds to me like an adult pretending to be a teen, including one or two churchy preachy stuff. In summary: Alice’s voice didn’t work for me.

It was therefore up to the plot to keep me engaged. Showalter partly succeeds, given that I skimmed the book to the end. This is mostly due to the aforementioned romance between Alice and Cole. Every time Showalter hit the right note in the love scenes—just kissing and mild groping, mind—it gave me hope for the romance if I could just ignore Cole’s arseholism. He brings to mind an overbearing Mills & Boon alpha hero, so readers who like this archetype and don’t mind seeing one in a teen novel might like him more than I did. But aside from that, the world building lacks detail and consistency. To quote Carroll: ‘they don’t seem to have any rules in particular’.

Which brings me back to the original Alice. Showalter makes some references to Carroll’s work: best friend Kat, a rabbit-shaped cloud that almost always spells doom, a recurring apparition, a party, a book that’s unintelligible to anyone but Alice. Except for the cloud, these references are fairly shallow and all they do is highlight the dissonance between what I expected the book to be and what I was actually reading.

In Carroll’s original work, the Cheshire Cat tells Alice that she’s sure to get somewhere, no matter which way she goes, if she walks long enough. I tried to apply the same principle by speed reading this book to the end. Unfortunately, it didn’t really go anywhere.

Yay or nay?

Alice in Zombieland never approaches the brilliance or charm of Lewis Carroll’s classic work. That I skimmed the book to the end despite the shambolic world building and dull characters just demonstrates what a romance tragic I am. In my teens, the make-out moments and a handful of genuinely touching moments between Alice and Cole would have been enough for me. As an adult, I fear it might injure the brain.

Who might enjoy it: Fans of Twilight

Who might not enjoy it: Readers expecting a modern twist to Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece

A review copy of this book was generously provided by Harlequin Australia.

Title: Alice in Zombieland (excerpt — see below)
Series: White Rabbit Chronicles (Book 1)
Author: Gena Showalter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Fishpond | Galaxy | Other
EBOOKS: Diesel | | Kindle UK | Kindle US
WORLDWIDE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository | Library


  1. Kat says:

    I love the cover, too. I’m not sure why the author or publisher chose to link this book to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll’s work would, I think, lend itself very well to a remix, but this isn’t one.

  2. Envyious says:

    I actually really loved that opening (not that I’ve had time to finish it) but thus far I was enjoying what I was reading (not that I’d gotten far because of reasons lol)

  3. I’ve only read one Showalter, and, er, let’s just say that I had some serious issues with it. I have this one to review, and although I kind of like the concept, I’m worried about the quality of writing–which seems to be the case here. Admittedly, I do often find that first person can be quite shallow. There can be a huge over-reliance on “voice” to the detriment of actual characterisation, and that seems to be the case here.

  4. Kat says:

    This was my first Showalter. I was thinking of trying her adult books, but maybe I’ll look for third person POV next time. I think if you read the opening pages, you’ll get a fair idea of whether or not that narrator will work for you.

  5. Kat says:

    Hi, Ginger Ninja. I tried to finagle the release date for book 2 from the powers that be, but it seems to be a secret for the time being!

  6. Emma says:

    I love Alice In Zombieland!! i love the fact that its not that close to the original Alice in Wonderland. The romance between Cole and Alice is so fire and ice and that is really captivating to me. I love all of the characters and all of the twist and turns. It is definitely worth the read, you will regret it if you don’t!! 

  7. Kat says:

    Hi, Emma, I’ll do my best. Just depends on when the publisher makes it known. Also, the release date in Australia may or may not be the same as the first worldwide release (I’m assuming that’ll be the US).

  8. Liss says:

    I’m halfway through and I don’t mind it. I do agree that it’s not one of Showalter’s best books but I am glad there’s one female main character who doesn’t continually and blindly follow the guy, doing whatever he says. I don’t like 1st person POV so I’m struggling a little there. The churchy-preachy stuff did put me off at first, but I figured when I saw her acknowledgements that this book would include some churchy stuff. I almost put it down when it first came up but I figured I bought it so I may as well read it. I’m going to finish it though because Showalter has managed to engage me enough that I want to see it through but I don’t think it’ll be on my list of must-reads. Which is a pity because I could see myself liking Alice and the story if there had just been something else there. I mean I like it well enough but it’s not going to be one of those reads that once I’m finished, it’s going to leave me still thinking about it.  For a Showalter must-read you should definitely give her adults books a read if you haven’t already. The Lords of the Underworld series is one of my favourites. I just wish this book engaged me as much, because I really do enjoy her writing.

  9. Kat says:

    Emma and Ginger Ninja, you’ve probably already hear, but just in case you haven’t, the next book in the series, Through the Zombie Glass is due for release in October.

    Liss, I’d definitely like to give her adult books a go one day. Thanks for the rec!

  10. Selena:3 says:

    Hey @ginger ninja if you actually get the book at the end it say the second book won’t come out until some time in October 2013.. I can’t wait I loved the book it’s been 2-3 days and already on chapter 10. The and one needs to come out fast.

  11. Danielle says:

    I just fished this book myself today. i wish the next ook could come out like today :( it was an amazing book between horror and romance… those are my favorite types of books. I can’t wait to read the next one!!! Make it good! :D

  12. Jess says:

    I didn’t give a shit that it had nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland. I am a HUGE fan of Alice in Wonderland, so huge that I have big Alice tattoos all over me. But I did not care that this book had nothing to do with it. Yeah the title and cover makes it look like it does but so what…. It was still a FANTASTIC book in my opinion. I enjoyed every page it was a very compelling book. Can’t wait for the next… 

  13. Cassi says:

    I loved this book so much i spent all of yesterday reading it and now I’m finished, It is so worth the read and honestly if you cant learn how to appreciate this book you have problems.

  14. Shannen says:


  15. Kaitie Katt says:

    I’m reading the book right now! I wish the Alice had more voice! She repeats a lot of things (Gina must have ran out of ideas) I also think the relationship between Alice and Cole was going a little too fast. Also the begining of the book was a little…well, lame. This book needed to be worked on a little more~this coming from a 12 year old!~ Other than that, I do like it, I even drew fan art of Alice, and Cole

  16. Shooting_Stars says:

    I love this book! It is so amazing. I’ve read it a lot of times. I love the romance and horror! I can’t wait for the second book to come out!

  17. Bree says:

    I just would like to say that i started this book at 11:00 a.m and i just finished reading it was just that good. I really think that you should make the movies even though I've only read the first book and i will always love the white rabbit chronicles. #1 fan forever. I hope you make the MOVIES.(Plzzzzzz plzzzzz i really want you to make the movie).

  18. Alice says:

    actually, it is a FANTASTIC book that gives an elegant and spunky twist to Lewis caroll’s Classic Alice in wonderland, though it’s true the book is not very much related to Alice in Wonderland it does have simalarities. This book is not even close to boring and the well thought, extrodanairy character plots will blow your mind.If you are looking for a romantic paranormal book that includes comedy, mystery and all of the above then you MUST read this book. I recommend Alice in Zombieland to EVERY book nerd and anyone who likes books that will keep you up all night And keep you pondering in your sleep about what will happen next.

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