Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

rot-and-ruinBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2010
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 458 pages ; 22 cm
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.  Retrieved from            
  • ISBN: 978-1-44240-232-4
  • Subjects:
    • Diseases – Fiction
    • Mythology – Fiction
    • Rebuilding societies – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation:  You know what’s worse than surviving the zombie apocalypse?  Having Tom ‘Mr. Freaking Perfect’ Imura as a big brother!

Plot Summary:  They call it First Night, the night the term ‘zombie’ moved from fiction to reality and the world as billions knew it, ended.  Benny Imura, at 18 months of age, was saved from what had been his father by his older brother Tom who carried him through the rot and ruin of the world to eventual safety in a community called Mountainside.  Now nearing fifteen he must take on a job of some kind in his community if he wants to continue eating.  And his brother is encouraging him to join the ‘family business’ which involves going back out into the rot and ruin that is left, finding the zombified families of people in the community and giving them peace; in other words, killing them. Tom, however, is not the only zombie bounty hunter out there and in the fashion of humans everywhere, some of these killers are hero’s to the young and even have cards with their images on them which are collected by the kids in the community.  But, as Benny and his friend learn, they aren’t all hero’s and zombies are the worst monsters out in the rot and ruin.

Critical Evaluation:  It’s easy to dismiss this book as just another monster book but it really isn’t.  The difference between a good monster or zombie book, and a bad one, is that in a good one the author realizes that the book isn’t really about the monster but about the people who live in the same world as a the monster.  Maberry understands this to his core.  The zombies are a terrible thing, a force of nature that used to be loved ones.  Tom Imura, Benny’s older, and terribly wiser, brother knows this and tries to teach his brother and the other kids it as well.  It isn’t until Benny leaves Mountainside and goes with Tom back to their old home does he finally realize what Tom has been trying to tell him.  There, tied to chairs so they can’t hurt anyone, are their parents.  Infected and tragic, they are monsters, and they are Mom and Dad.  Tom has kept them ‘alive’ so that Benny can get real closure and genuine understanding of just what zombies really are.  Sick people who still deserve respect and compassion even if they must ultimately be killed.  The way Maberry constructs the story and defines his characters makes this work in a way few apocalyptic stories succeed in doing.  If you read this book and only see zombies, you have completely missed the point and a really good story.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. His books have been sold to more than a dozen countries. His novels include the Pine Deep Trilogy: GHOST ROAD BLUES (Pinnacle books; winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2006), DEAD MAN’S SONG (2007) and BAD MOON RISING (2008); . . . and the Benny Imura series of Young Adult dystopian zombie thrillers from Simon & Schuster: ROT & RUIN (2011; named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award finalist; winner of the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards), DUST & DECAY (Aug 30 2011), FLESH & BONE (2012) and FIRE & ASH (21013).  Retrieved from

Genre Designation: Horror

Possible Curriculum Links:

Book Talk Ideas:

  • Is there a person in your life you want to be like when you grow up?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected. I love these kinds of books and stories when they are done right.  And Maberry always does them right.


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