Review: Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Dearly, Beloved (Gone with the Respiration #2)
Lia Habel

Del Ray
Released September 25, 2012
496 pages
YA / Romance / Zombies

Find it on Goodreads

Order it from Amazon

Can the living coexist with the living dead? 

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.

I have to be up front: I have no objectivity when it comes to Lia Habel and her series about cognizant zombies and the teenage girls who love them. I mean, no objectivity whatsoever. To be completely honest, I’m tempted to just write ZOMBIE BRAM! over and over again until my fingers get tired. Because this book is just as awesome as Dearly, Departed and left me with the same sense of giddiness mixed with confused disgust. Bram is a zombie, a legitimately dead person, and I want to make out with him. It’s so wrong. It’s all Lia Habel’s brilliant, twisted fault.

Spoilers for Dearly, Departed follow

Dearly, Beloved picks up soon after the concluding events of the first book with our plucky teenage protagonist Nora finding herself stuck in a house full of former zombie soldiers and two scientists, one of whom has a detachable head.

I mean, really, after that description how could you not want to read this book?

The story twists together multiple plotlines that unfortunately leave Bram and Nora apart for much of the book, which was probably my only real disappointment other than the book not being completely about Bram all moments on all pages. Nora’s best friend Pamela, who proved herself to be pretty handy with a  parasol when in the middle of a zombie attack, is trying to hold her family together now that her little brother is a zombie, all while hiding the horrible PTSD she’s suffering from her previous adventure. The uber douche rich boy Michael still thinks Nora belongs to him and joins a creepy cult full of bored little rich boys, who attack zombies for the fun of it. Laura, a zombie girl keen on planting flowers within her own body, is finding her carefully put together life falling apart as a militant group of zombies take over her older sister’s crew.

Those three seemingly minor story lines interweave with Bram and his zombie army buddies discovering The Changed – the growing group of cognizant zombies that Laura lives with – and how they might fit in with the attacks going on in the city. Nora, incapable of not finding herself placed in the middle of the action, meanwhile is trying to discover the truth about the new found Patient One, who has a new strain of the Lazarus virus that cannot be vaccinated for.  Meanwhile tensions between living and dead continue to grow in New London and each day Nora and her friends are faced with death, destruction and the potential of having their carefully created lives destroyed.

With so many plot points, it would be easy to get them tangled, but Habel carefully weaves together an elegantly complex series of events that all tie together stupendously. By alternating between six points of view, she manages to capture just those important moments that have the biggest impact on the future of all her characters. There’s little time to get comfortable in the world of the Changed for example before you’re transported back to Nora on the navy boats with her father and Patient One, looking for answer.

Nora is feisty and just a tad bit reckless. She is a great YA protagonist because she makes intelligent choices even when things seem rash. Her loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of her new found friends is inspiring. Plus I don’t feel so bad fan girling over Bram when I have a surrogate to go through.

But really this book is about Bram and he’s not in it nearly enough to be honest. His scenes towards the conclusion made me ridiculously happy as he tries to maintain his composure over his zombie side that wants to eat anyone that harms his friends or Nora while still getting answers. He’s as gallant as ever, wanting to save everybody on all sides while finding out the truth. He’s sweet and funny and the best zombie that has ever existed in all of ever. I have huge crush on him and it disturbs me to no end.

And just when everything seems to be all peachy keen, Habel adds in a perfectly placed comment that wrecks me. Throughout the book there’s referenced to the time left for Bram. I mean, he’s dead and his body will only last for so long, but it’s the way Habel makes everything so wonderful and happy for Nora and Bram only for one of them to have a thought or make a slightly veiled comment that I go from giggling like a teenager to holding back tears.

Once again Habel has written a book that I immediately wanted to devour all over again once I finished it. These characters are some of my favorite in YA and I wish upon all that is right and good that somehow Habel can create a happy ending for Bram, but knowing her deviousness, I’m not going to hold my breath. If you haven’t read this series, read it. It’s a brilliant amalgamation of Jane Austen Victorian


I received an e-copy of this book via Net Galley in return for an honest review. I could have easily written much more, but I'll leave it here with ZOMBIE BRAM!