8 Rated Books Book Reviews YA Appreciation Month

Book Review: Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters

Title: Kiss of Life

Author: Daniel Waters

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Speculative Fiction, Zombies

Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: May 2009
Hardcover: 416 pages

Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the ongoing Generation Dead series.

Why did I read this book: I loved Daniel Waters’s first book in the series, Generation Dead and upon the cliffhanger-type of ending, I knew I needed to read Kiss of Life immediately.

**As this is a review of book 2 in a series, it necessarily contains SPOILERS for book 1, Generation Dead. If you have not read the first book and do not wish to be spoiled, refrain from reading this review (and in fact, refrain from reading ANY synopses for this book as even the summary below has spoilers). YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!**

Summary: (from amazon.com)
The phenomenon that’s been sweeping the country seems to be here to stay. Not only are the teenagers who have come back from their graves still here, but newlydeads are being unearthed all the time. While scientists look for answers and politicians take their stands, the undead population of Oakville have banded together in a group they’re calling the Sons of Romero, hoping to find solidarity in segregation.

Phoebe Kendall may be alive, but she feels just as lost and alone as her dead friends. Just when she reconciled herself to having feelings for a zombie — her Homecoming date Tommy Williams — her friend Adam is murdered taking a bullet that was meant for her. Things get even more confusing when Adam comes back from the grave. Now she has romantic interest in two dead boys; one who saved her life, and one she can’t seem to live without.


At the end of Generation Dead, Adam has taken a bullet meant for Phoebe, and he has died….and come back again. Wracked with guilt, Phoebe makes it her top priority to take care of Adam, and to show him how loved he is in order for him to come back more fully, in accordance to Tommy’s theory – he believes that the difference between highly functioning zombies and those who are less recovered is because of the acceptance and even love they are shown by their families and friends. Adam struggles with his inability to speak and move, as well as with his own feelings of guilt for “trapping” Phoebe into being his constant babysitter. Adam has always loved Phoebe, though she has only ever seen him as a friend and was oblivious to his feelings for her, and now as one of the differently biotic, Adam does not want his Pheeble’s pity.

Things have changed in this small town – Pete, Adam’s killer, faces trial but finds support from a mysterious group, and at the same time someone has been framing the local zombies with malicious and dangerous crimes. The Hunter Foundation’s enrollment drops, and the high school participants begin to question its methods and motivations. The lines between the living and the undead are being drawn, and a bitter conflict awaits – and Phoebe, Adam and their friends are caught in the middle.

I was taken completely by surprise with Generation Dead. The kitschy cover put me in the mind of a silly, lighthearted ZomCom, but that impression could not be farther from the truth – Generation Dead dealt with some hefty issues, and ends in tragedy. As such, I was prepared this time for Kiss of Life; stupid cover (sorry, this cover has absolutely NOTHING to do with the story and in fact has the situation backwards – if anyone is in the coffin, it should be football player Adam) aside, I knew that these pages would tackle issues of tolerance and discrimination, the struggle for self-discovery and awareness, and of course, relationships. Even knowing this and having mentally prepared myself ahead of time, I still could not believe how well-written and thought-provoking Kiss of Life was. The issues of discrimination and acceptance that are explored on a small scale in Generation Dead are brought to even larger proportions in this second novel, with zombies as a metaphor for the very human fear of that which is different. As with the very best works in the zombie genre, as the master George Romero’s films have always done, Daniel Waters uses his “differently biotic” teens to explore social issues – hate crimes & the oppressed response; racial/sexual/sexual-orientation prejudice & discrimination; the role of the legal system and legal precedents in these situations; the questionable nature of non-profit organizations; the role of the media – especially online media – in dispersing information.

That’s not to say Kiss of Life is some dry moral parable; on the contrary, Mr. Waters manages to weave these larger social (and even political) issues seamlessly into an immensely readable, entertaining, and thought-provoking story.

While the plotting and underlying themes of Kiss of Life are impressive in their scope, the depth of Mr. Waters’s characters is what truly captivates readers – in particular, Phoebe and Adam. The novel alternates from Phoebe’s thoughts to Adam’s, and the result is incredibly moving, especially for Adam’s segments. For example, the opening chapter is from Adam’s point of view:


Beautiful Phoebe.

Through the glass watch Phoebe leave bus walk to house Phoebe green skirt green eyes skirt trailing hair flowing black and shiny in the sun. Brown leather boots beige scarf wearing colors no black Phoebe beautiful Phoebe. Halloween Phoebe in costume no costume.

Adam’s stunted inner dialogue powerfully conveys his own frustrations with his inability to move, to feel, and to be with Phoebe. Similarly, Phoebe’s feelings are confused and torn. While she does still care for Tommy, it was Adam who unquestioningly put himself in danger to save her life. But is what she feels for Adam pity or friendship or guilt, or is it love? Both of these characters grow a lot in this book as they sort out their own individual issues, and their feelings for each other. The other characters from Generation Dead play major roles here too, evolving and growing in this second novel with subsequent plot developments. Margi and Collette become inseparable, shocking after Margi’s guilt and denial in book 1. Karen, the beautiful dead girl and her role as an emerging leader of the zombies as Tommy leaves town to raise zombie awareness is also a well written character – though not without her own tragedy,. And, of course, there’s Pete – the spiteful football captain who deals with the consequences of killing Adam. I love that Pete’s motivations are hardly monotonously eeeeeevil; rather, his own backstory, conveyed in Generation Dead, explains his strong feelings very well, and are explored more fully here in Kiss of Life.

With this strong cast of characters, compelling and open ended plotlines, deeper emotional and socially conscientious themes, Kiss of Life is another winner from Daniel Waters. Let the countdown begin for the next novel in the Generation Dead series!

Notable Quotes/Parts: Is this spoilery? I don’t think so.

There was a lot they could say there, she thought, in the quiet kitchen, a lot that had gone unsaid and a lot about what had been said, but for the first time she felt that nothing needed saying. The link, the bond — call it friendship, call it telepathic — that had been broken was there again, radiating in the air between them as palpably as the aromatic steam rising from her cup.

“It is…almost…tme,” Adam said. “Can…I take…your…bag for you?”

Her negative reply was reflexive, but the bond enabled her to catch it before it was out of her mouth. Adam, who in a hundred small ways, through opening doors and driving her work and carrying bags and holding coats and letting her pick songs on the stereo, had not be able to do a single thing for her inthe past two months.

“That would be great,” she said, nudging her heavy ba from its place beside her char with the toe of her boot, “because it is pretty heavy.”

“Good…thing,” he said, “that I am…pretty..damn…powerful.”

“Good thing,” she said, and excused herself to get her coat, hat and gloves.

“Phoebe.” He touched her arm.

She turned, and when she did, he leaned forward and he kissed her.

Additional Thoughts: On the covers. The US covers are cutesy, but really have absolutely nothing to do with the story in these books. I’m assuming this is a marketing ploy (YA covers with pictures of people on the cover sell better?), but I can’t help but feel disappointed by them. In contrast, the UK covers are far more neutral but less eye-catching…

US Covers:

UK Covers:


Verdict: An immensely engaging and thought-provoking book, I loved Kiss of Life and eagerly await the next book in the series.

Rating: 8 Excellent

Reading Next: Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier


  • Book Chick City
    July 28, 2009 at 1:59 am

    What a great review! I like the fact you showed the UK covers too. I think your blog is really good. Thanks for sharing – I think I will order these from my library. 😀

  • Rob Charron
    July 28, 2009 at 3:13 am

    Hi 🙂
    A great review! I hadn’t heard of either of these books before and now I must read them.
    I prefer the UK covers
    They seem less campy and more intriguing.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Mollie
    July 28, 2009 at 7:55 am

    You know I enjoyed Generation Dead, however, I felt the symbolism and parallels regarding prejudice and racism were a bit heavy handed. Hoping Kiss of Life eases up a bit on that….

    Great review. I’ve gotten Kiss of Life from the library and am looking forward to reading it!

    So glad you guys are spotlighting YA fiction. It’s one of my fav genres! 🙂

  • katiebabs
    July 28, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Again, another great review that makes me want to read this book. Do you think that the whole glom of zombie YA books may get a bit old?

  • Lusty Reader
    July 28, 2009 at 11:41 am

    so glad to read your detailed reviews, and that you mentioned the kitchy covers. i have seen the second book several times on the end cap at my bookstore and passed it EVERY time thinking “ugh, that looks HORRIBLE” like dawson’s creek/friday night lights/true blood combined. they certainly don’t look “engaging and thought-provoking book” as you said, but more shallow.

    in conclusion, they are added to my wish list. you are taking over my wish list, Thea!

  • KMont
    July 28, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I’ll go ahead and admit it, I’m feeling vapid and shallow today – if the moral and social issues are too noticeable, I’m not keen on that. On the other hand, the stories (both book one and this one) do sound interesting. I could read it and not mind the preachy stuff at all. Oh the horrors of shallowness and apathy. On the fence. Meh.

  • Vorvolaka
    July 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Just reviewed that myself last week. It’s probably one of my favourite YA series’ that’s come out recently.

    And the UK covers do it for me. I love the simplicity of them, even if they don’t have much to do with the story either.

  • Thea
    July 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Book Chick – Thanks! I hope you do get a hold of these from your library, and I hope you enjoy them!

    Rob – Thanks! And if I had to pick between the two, I think I prefer the UK covers as well, though they are much more…impersonal. I do like the colors of the US covers, but they are ridiculously campy IMO. Still, as the old adage goes, don’t judge a book by its cover and all that jazz 😉 I hope you get a chance to read this fabulous series!

    Mollie – Hey, haven’t seen you around these parts in a while! 🙂 I can definitely see how you and other readers might find the moral issues a bit heavy-handed, but I genuinely didn’t mind it at all. I think in part because I do care about the characters, and because…well, I’m always a sucker for the zombie as vehicle for society’s ills thing :p I’m a sucker for the supernatural as metaphor thing (X-Men, Vampires, whatever!).

    I hope you like Kiss of Life! If nothing else, don’t you want to know what happens to Adam and Pheebs? :mrgreen: I love them.

    KB – There do seem to be more zombie books on the market, especially the YA market, huh? But…as a huge fan of the walking dead, I’m not complaining! Especially when there are true gems like this series, or Carrie Ryan’s work, or even Zombie Blondes which I just finished reading yesterday! Me likey.

    Now, if I have to see another pouty emo vampire, that’s an entirely different story :p

    Lusty Reader – I can TOTALLY understand the hesitation because of the kitschy covers. If it wasn’t for a friend’s recommendation, I probably never would have picked up the first book. Man am I glad I did, though! These are truly smart, entertaining, and yes, thought-provoking novels. I hope you enjoy the series!

    And I am always happy to commandeer your TBR *cackles evilly* 😈

    KMont – Oh please do do do give this a try. It’s a fantastic series and in my opinion it isn’t preachy. I mean, there’s a good message in the book but it’s not high-handed or stuffily preaching AT you, if you know what I mean? The stories are well written and the characters are strong in their own right (unlike say, Corey Doctorow’s Little Brother).

  • Mollie
    July 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Oh I will definitely read it! I do want to know about Adam and Pheobe. I LOVE Adam. Love him! 🙂

    I know I just kind of lurk now. I don’t have a blog anymore but I still follow a bunch of blogs. Your YA spotlight has me de-lurking. I love YA. And I always seem to enjoy your recommendations!!!

  • Anonymous
    December 12, 2009 at 8:14 am

    i liked the review! 😀 but i really want 2 read the second book!!!!(how can i online ❓ )

  • Xxsall Xx
    January 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I really liked your review , i just finished genoration dead and thought it was really good ,im going to read the second one as soon as i get it through the post 🙂 xX

  • Anonymous
    February 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    pheobe thts me

  • andreia
    June 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    why cant i read the book i just finished the first one and i wanted to start the second one befor i forget what happend in the last one i haet it when that happends dont you???? i cant beleive it ended it was so good i couldn’t put it down it was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo awsome

  • andreia
    June 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

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  • taaalor :)
    August 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    i luved the first book & i couldnt wait any longer to see what this book was about, thx so much for the summary!

    :mrgreen: im glad i dont have to get the american cover…sorry luv, but they seem a bit corny & cliche, dont u think?

  • Kirstan Faith James
    October 22, 2010 at 8:39 am

    awesome review!!!! i hope its as good as you make it sound!

    May 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    My mom grounded me before I could even damn thing i`m really pissed bout that but oh well! 😈

  • Elizabeth
    August 29, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Very good review! I loved the book,
    and I HATE reading! I was very
    surprised as to how this book
    had me VERY interested in it
    and that’s when I realized
    I only am interested into
    reading books about
    people close to my age.
    For my first english assignment,
    we had to find a review on a book
    and pick a literary device
    and write about the review.
    🙂 This review was very helpful &
    the literary device I used was

  • sai rose
    May 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    i love the 1book but im look for the 2 help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 🙁 🙁

  • shamalama ding dong :D
    May 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    hey guys lovin dis website ae.. Just wana make a shout out to my family and friends man i love all ov youuuuuuuus<3 Its yo girl Moko Jojo <3 😀 :mrgreen: 😀 :mrgreen:

  • happy feet
    May 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    e muamua lava ona ou faatalofa atu 😀 hi ❗ :!:. im so happy feet for u adam for save the one who u love. 😉 love lol 😀
    😳 😳

  • victoria
    December 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    While your review was “thought provoking” I disagree with your view of the covers book one you see the girl in the uniform that book was centered mainly on the dead trying to be alive. You know participating in normal things. And you see this limp (dead) girl in a cheer uniform. Seemingly normal but on the bench, like Tommy with football. Always on the verge of life never crossing it. The second book was about phoebe bringing Adam back to life. But really it was Adam doing the resurrection? I think so. Phoebe spent all her time with the dead Adams death was the thing that brought her out of the coffin.The covers are symbols they’re figurative not literal. Maybe you agree maybe ya don’t.
    . – sincerely wonderfully pointless American book covers

    December 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    this book was great and i cant believe that there is another book that follows and i cant wait 2 read that book

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