The many glowing reviews of this book persuaded me that it would be a great read. Though I don't like knocking new authors, I wish I'd paid more attention to the minority of dissenting voices and I hope to do some other prospective reader a favour with this review. I hope.
First of all, let me say I loved the opening scene - the child's fingers questing under the door, the mother trembling on the porch, thinking irrelevant thoughts, unable to equate this with her life. Masterly.
If only the rest of the work had lived up to it.
I wanted to like the story, and it had some truly exciting moments, but just as I was getting into the swing of a scene or a character, I'd stub my toe on amateurish writing - too many adverbs, sentences that tell us with a clunk what we should be able to infer ('Jenni sighed contentedly, obviously relaxing' -first of all, if you 'sigh contentedly', we can infer you're relaxed, thanks, and then, by the way, if I can point to another element of amateurish writing, 'obvious' to whom? From whose point of view is this scene? Unfocused head-hopping is not the route to good storytelling).
Then there's the flat-out typos and bad grammar and punctuation. Also the teeth-clenchingly irritating 'Gawd' thing and the childish, unconvincing Juan and Jenni love-hate relationship, which might have worked if there'd not been a sentence where it became apparent that we (or Jenni) are really supposed to believe she hates him. Or if they'd been characters from 'The Gilmore Girls'.
There's a sequence over pages 243-247 where almost every single movement of the characters is laid out for us - there are so many smiles (including sad, half and kind-of), winces, nods, frowns, sighs, fingertip-running, elbow-resting and food-shoving, that I almost threw the damn book across the room (angrily, sliding to my feet, but with a small, sad half-smile, of course). Micro-managed character-action does not add to character! It just gets in the way of story and treats the reader like an idiot who can't imagine those things for herself. If a character is running his knife along his throat, yes, that would be relevant in telling us something about him. Everything else is just dross that the author doesn't yet have the confidence to leave out.
Another bone I have to pick is the Lydia theme. If a character is haunted by grief, the writer has to find a way to present it in a way that's interesting to the reader, not just repeat how sad and angry and regretful Katie is, at every opportunity.
On the plus side, some of the dialogue is zippy and funny, and the action scenes are exciting. The writer obviously had great fun writing her book.
As I see from the other reviews, many readers are OK with bad writing if there is an exciting story and characters they can identify with - that's fine, but if you're not one of those lucky people, I would avoid this one. I love zombie novels and they're just as easy to write well as any other, if the author has the skill. Ms Frater, I'm afraid, needs to hone her craft a lot more before I would ever read any more of her work. I would suggest she studies Strunk's 'Elements of Style' til it's coming out of her ears.
I, who normally whiz through books at a pace I wish I could slow down, took months to finish 'The First Days/As the World Dies'. I wanted a great, zippy read, but what I got was a book I could not stop putting down.