“Dating Secrets of the Dead” by David Prill was a learning experience for me. It taught me that there’s a horror sub-sub-genre that I’m not particularly fond of: zombie romance. Maybe I’m just being old fashioned about this but vampires don’t sparkle and zombies don’t go a courtin’.
Prill takes an admittedly clever approach, writing his tale of angst-filled teen zombie love like he was narrating an instructional film from the fifties on dating etiquette. And we only get subtle hints at first that our decomposing would-be Romeo (a brain tumor victim named Jerry) and all his pals aren’t quite like most kids. “I’m soft spoken,” he says. “My breath would hardly fog a mirror.” Jerry has his eye on a new arrival named Caroline who, as he puts it, has “such a peaceful look on her face.” Things go well enough at first, but Jerry soon learns that the living dead have far more to worry about than pimples when it comes to blemishes.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the world in which the story took place. Obviously it’s set in a cemetery, but the sheer number of walking dead begs far more questions than the story is willing to answer. Why are these people coming back? How are they getting out of the ground? Don’t any of the living notice that the cemetery grounds look like Swiss cheese from all the open graves? Author Prill must have thought these concerns were secondary to the story he was telling, but they were all I could think about. This one feels more like a ghost story shoehorned into a zombie format, and it’s the first clunker of the book.