The Deranged is Kate Myers’ first novel and it suffers from typical first-novel maladies. The story is an unremarkable zombie apocalypse tale that follows the four major characters as they flee from the “deranged” humans who charge at any normal person and try to beat them to death. The zombies don’t eat flesh, and can be killed in conventional ways (shoot them once and they’re dead), but they are still a big problem. The virus that converts people to The Deranged originated (maybe) in a lab where Keith is an engineer. Keith rushes home to grab his son, Max, along with his neighbor, Wiley, and Wiley’s niece, Skyler, and the four of them race away from Columbus, Ohio, trying to reach Keith’s cabin in the woods before all Hell breaks loose. They are chased by mysterious military-type men in black uniforms, although the reader never finds out why, or why these guys seem to be engaged in some kind of government take-over.
The nature of the virus, how it is transmitted, what happens to the people who are infected (they seem to have mostly disappeared) and it all has to do with shadowy military men in black, are never explained. Nor does the author explain how (or why) there is an organized “resistance” movement when the outbreak is not even public knowledge yet. There are many more unexplained plot points, but the story is not really about any of that – it’s all about whether Max and Skyler (and Keith and Wiley) will make it to the cabin alive.
Along the way, Max and Skyler go through a roller coaster passive-aggressive teen romance as the four protagonists face various obstacles and perils on their journey. The romance/relationship is the main focus, although these teens make it hard to decide whether you want them to kiss or slap each other. The author includes great detail about the events over three days and some of the description is interesting, although more often it is excessive and unnecessary. The perils are mostly not connected to any larger plot arc, and while each new challenge comes with breathtaking chases or gun battles or surprise twists, but there is not much that is really original and mostly the problems seem like convenient ways to stretch out the story rather than pieces to a larger puzzle.
All the above would make for a routine time-passer of a book, but there are some serious additional problems. First, the book is written in first person present narrative, which is awkward and hard to read. The narrator shifts from character to character, also in first person present. There are also internal inconsistencies and gaping plot holes that leave the reader often confused about the geography, the time line, and where the heroes are going. One minute they are walking through a forest toward the secluded cabin, then the next moment they come to a small town (with zombies, of course) that also has a farm and a barn just steps away from main street. There are a lot of barns and farm equipment in the story, yet the protagonists have been on foot for only a day, starting on the edge of a major city. One major character gets captured by the men in black and disappears from the story until the very end, but his thread of the story is entirely unresolved and open in the end. Max suffers broken ribs, a major concussion and head trauma, and is shot in the side by a hollow-point bullet – and yet he leaps from moving cars, scales fences, rescues Skyler from peril, and otherwise behaves like a fully able-bodied hero rather than as a teen who has suffered serious injuries. There are a lot of these kinds of plot irregularities, which detract from the enjoyment of the read. All this, combined with very sloppy editing throughout, give the book the feel of a draft rather than a finished product. (The author credits her editor at Three Fates Editing for doing a great job — I’d say find a different editor because this book has dozens of obvious typos, grammar errors, word duplications, and similar sloppy writing — even putting aside the first person present format.)
Then, the ending is wholly unsatisfying and resolves none of the plot issues. In the author’s description of the book on amazon, if you read to the very bottom, she makes it clear that there will be a sequel, which makes sense when nothing is really explained or resolved and there is a kind of cliffhanger at the very end. If you want a book that stands on its own, look elsewhere. For me, because of the many problems with the book, I will not be planning to read the next chapter.