If I only ever wrote about books I read for my own enjoyment, Zombie Baseball Beatdown, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little Brown, Spt. 2013, middle grade) wouldn't be here on this blog. I don't like zombies (so terribly messy), baseball (I'm not the sporty type), or really vivid descriptions of nasty meat packing plants and the cattle that are slaughtered there (I've never read The Jungle).
But I did indeed read Zombie Baseball Beatdown (because I admire Bacigalupi's YA books, because I knew it had a multicultural cast of characters, and because it was nominated for the Cybils) and I find myself able to say a few short words directing it toward readers who might love it (mainly because of the zombies and baseball; I really don't think there are many readers who pine for more meat-packing).
The heroes of the story three more-or-less ordinary kids in middle America. They are diverse in personalities and ethnicities (Rabi, the narrator, is half Bengali, Miguel is from Mexico, and Joe is generic Northern European), but they are united by their enjoyment of baseball, by their hatred of the son of the rich head of the local meat-packing company, and, as the story progresses, by their desire to find the truth about the apocalypse of zombie cows (created by chemical cow enhancers gone wrong) that is (horribly) spreading a zombie plague to the people of their town.
For one of the three, Miguel, the desire to bring the meat-packers to justice comes not just from a sense that feeding toxic zombie cow meat to people should be stopped, but from a much more personal place. His family, illegal immigrants who worked at the plant for a pittance, have been deported because they knew too much, and now Miguel himself faces the possibly of being sent to a country he can't remember. It's great to see an important social issue incorporated into a zany adventure story, taken very seriously, and giving depth and emotional import to the zombie fun and games.
So basically, it's three kids against the evil pigs who want to make money no matter what the human (and cow) cost, and this part of the book I do like! And there's a lot of smashing zombies with baseball bats, and creeping around the horrifying meat packing plant, and zombie cows attacking people, written in such a way as to be very appealing to those who enjoy such things (I think the cover will do a good job self-selecting those readers).
Here's a much more coherent review at Ms. Yingling Reads. I totally agree with her about the major weakness in the plot--all these townsfolk become mindless zombies desperate to bite the living, and the kids whack them to pieces with bats and plow through them with a truck, etc., and we Never Find Out what happens to them all in the end! If there is in fact a high death toll, there should be some emotional consideration given to these poor people/zombies who were once neighbors, but the ending wraps up with no mention of all the empty houses, deserted stores, etc. that one feels should be there....
Nominated by Pamela, of Reading is Fun Again