Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed
Lia Habel

Del Ray (2011)
470 pages
YA / Paranormal Romance / ZOMBIES!

Purchase it from Amazon

I thought giving it some time would help me get past it. I thought reading another book not involving zombies would help me to forget. I thought watching The Walking Dead would be like negative reinforcement.

I was wrong.

I still would make out with Bram the zombie soldier, I feel dirty and it’s all Lia Habel’s fault!

I don’t know how I managed to stay away from this book for as long as I did. Victorian sensibilities in the future with airships and reanimated dead people who, for the most part, are capable of thinking and talking? This book was written for me. Ms. Habel didn’t realize it, but she wrote this book for me and it took me six months to get my hands on it.

Dearly, Departed is about zombies. In a Victorian future. It’s also about Nora, a girl from a rich family, who is coming out of her one year of mourning after her father died from a terrible disease. One night after returning home from her boarding school for the holidays, she is bombarded by a small army of zombies. Most other women with Victorian sensibilities would have probably fainted on site and gotten eaten. Instead Nora fights back with her father’s shot gun, climbing up on the roof of the house and defending herself as best she can. That’s when another small group of zombies swoop in and kidnap her. She rightfully faints at this moment and doesn’t wake up until she’s in a military base somewhere far from home that happens to be full of zombies.

Do you really need me to say anything else? Isn’t it painfully obvious that I loved this book and all books read in the immediate future will suffer from the simple fact that they aren’t this book? Somewhere between when Nora brought out the shotgun and when she woke up to find Bram the zombie soldier sitting outside her door, I realized that this wasn’t as campy as I was expecting. Yes, the book plays for laughs at times, but no more than any other YA paranormal romance book. This one just happens to have cognizant zombies instead of vampires.

This book is really funny because of Habel’s writing style and use of inserting humor in serious moments without it seeming wedged in unnaturally. Despite being zombies, these are very human zombies – they’re real life teenagers that just happened to have died a few years before. There are so many snarky remarks and jokes reliant on the fact that over half the cast is made up of zombies. One particular zombie soldier, he of a high class family and a love for classic literature, rightfully states that “vampires are just zombies with better PR people”. Rightfully so, sir, rightfully so.

Nora is a rockstar of a YA lead. She lives in an oppressive society where she’s forced to wear unwieldy corsets and dresses, act appropriately and not do anything daring. She, of course, much prefers her new life of wearing more functional clothing, carrying around an assortment of weapons and actually having her opinions listened to and considered. The fact that she has to move into an army base full of people who would really love to eat her to have all this freedom is a bit beside the point.

Then there’s Bram the zombie soldier. Despite being dead, he’s incredibly sweet, head strong and sensitive. Every time he came into any potential danger, I had to suppress the desire to scream at my Kindle. I didn’t want anything to happen to Bram the zombie soldier and I really wanted someone to kiss him already. Jeez, how nice does he have to be to get some affection around here?

As far as plot goes, there’s military intrigue, scientific nonsense involving vaccines and viruses, a short plotline with Nora’s incredibly proper friend Pamela going all Victorian Resident Evil and a lot of back stabbing. And of course a lot of dead people wander around, both good and bad.

This is my favorite read of 2012 so far. I loved everything about this book. There was just enough context behind how the world became what it had become to satisfy me. Despite all the action, scientific and military talk, and running, the pacing never got bogged down and the tone always remained light. Characters on both sides were multi-dimensional, even when only featured for a little bit.

But mostly I’m incredibly impressed that Lia Habel managed to make me not only root for a living girl to kiss a dead boy, but also make me feel disappointed in moments that passed with it not happening.

And the fact that I’m just noticing that this series is called Gone with the Respiration?


Lia Habel should be my friend.


I received a copy of this wonderful book from the publisher via Netgalley. In return I give them my honest opinion and most likely some of my cash once it comes out in paperback.