I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Imagine if your personal life was in shambles AND you had a zombie apocalypse to worry about. In Tell Me When I'm Dead, that's exactly the situation our main character, Dave, finds himself in. He's a man with what he believes to be a happy life. He's stopped drinking, has a beautiful wife who wants to start a family with him, and plans to go to community college. Dave used to drink all the time with his former friend, Jim, and anytime Jim comes around, Holly is afraid Dave will go back to his old ways. I soon found out Dave's life isn't as great as I first thought.
After the night Jim shows up at Dave and Holly's door completely drunk, things begin to go terribly wrong. Mutilated animals are found in the woods along with a jogger's body. People are beginning to act strangely, too, and one TV anchor calls it the "jimmies." Slowly people begin to realize their loved ones are dying and coming back as the living dead!
It took a while for the contagion to spread - it didn't happen overnight. The pacing of the story was realistic to me and made things even creepier. At first, people change into zombies slowly over a couple of weeks. They're walking around a bit stilted, but life goes on as usual around them. Eventually turning only takes a few hours, and that's when things get really scary.
I liked knowing the characters' back stories before we really get into the meat of the apocalypse (pun intended). These zombies aren't your typical zombies, either. They're 'roid raging, hell bent on revenge, and somewhat able to communicate with each other. Dave found this out the hard way when one zombie in particular was gunning for him. I thought that was fresh and original. And funny at times.
The messes Dave gets himself into are comical but sad at the same time. He's the kind of guy that you're rooting for, but you're also like a bit disgusted with, like dude why did you mess things up so badly??? It seemed like he didn't really want to be married even though he kept insisting he does. Even when he met up with Missy, he still had to reign in his attraction for her.
But Dave undergoes a transformation over the course of the book. While in the beginning I labeled him as a jerk for cheating on his wife and saving only himself from zombies, he begins to help others and takes huge risks to do so. He actually becomes heroic and brave. He still isn't perfect, but that's what makes his character realistic and believable. He runs into good luck; he runs into bad luck.
There's plenty of gore. I'm not squeamish at all, but if you are, I just want to warn you ahead of time. You can easily skip over those parts if that's the only thing keeping you from giving Tell Me When I'm Dead a try. Personally, I can't imagine a zombie novel where there aren't any violent scenes - it just wouldn't be an apocalypse without zombies splattering.
The frustrating part for me is that there are wackos that seem to come out of the woodwork in an apocalypse as if trying to fight zombies isn't bad enough. Just band together people! But people attacking each other over supplies is realistic. I can see humans behaving that way - look at all the looting that happens in natural disasters in real life.
There's a difference between reading a book and watching a movie. I can get scared with either, but there are scenes in books that I can picture vividly for a long long time afterward, and this book has plenty of those. Tell Me When I'm Dead will be a book that I'll always remember just by looking at the cover or reading the title.