The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker
Published by Usborne
3 out of 5 stars
Format: Kindle (available in a variety of formats)
The Other Life follows a fairly common dystopian plot – teenage girl, virus outbreak, end of civilization as we know it. Winnacker has tried to deviate from the norm by starting the story in a bunker, where (in a rare occurrence in YA) Sherry can be found with all of her family safe and sound. They entered the bunker four years previously when a human form of rabies broke out in LA, many others entered similar private bunkers and some went to communal shelters. But now the families food is gone, there has been no contact from other bunkers for well over a year and they have a choice – starve or go up to the surface and try to get some more food. Sherry and her father go – leaving her brother, mum and gran (and dead grandfather in the freezer) behind. Upon reaching the surface Sherry and her father realize that La’s been destroyed, and they are soon attacked by the infected ‘weepers’ – Sherry is rescued by the gorgeous Joshua but her father is taken, its time for Sherry to decide whether to save herself or risk everything to find her father.
I read a few scathing reviews of The Other Life, and part of me understands them, but I do think they are also a little harsh. There were many annoyances about the novel, firstly the endless counting of days, minutes etc – the reader doesn’t care how many minutes its been since she had an apple, they really don’t. I get that Winnacker was trying to make it a bit different and a character quirk, but it didn’t really work. The second issue I have was the flash backs to the ‘other life’ pre-virus – they were cute but had no order, didn’t reveal anything about the characters and didn’t really add to the story – had the flash backs revealed that she’s release the virus or something silly like that they’d of been worth while, but they didn’t – they were just fillers.
Having said that I loved the premise, I was thinking its a bit like a zombie version of Brendan Fraser’s 90‘s movie ‘Blast from the Past’ – how could that be bad? And it wasn’t bad, its not a literacy classic, but I liked Sherry and her attitude, she wasn’t an instant Katniss, she had to really struggle through her emotions and faced the situations as most 16 years olds would – she was terrified. I also think the scene that really made the book for me was the Weeper at the window. It freaked me out. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason, and this is one of them! I also loved the fact that Winnacker didn’t need to put tragedy into Sherry’s life before the book, she’s not alone in the world and that is what makes the book more realistic.
I read the book quickly, its not a genre leader but it sits comfortably in the ranks of ‘good’ its certainly much better than some of the trash I’ve read over the years and I’d be happy to pick up more in the series or more work from the author, in fact she’s going on my to-watch list! I’d say this is a good summer book, nothing too taxing but entertaining all the same, just don’t read that window seen in the dark.