By Suzanne Wardle
It should have been a regular Friday at the bookstore, but instead graduate student Allison Hewitt and her colleagues were holed in the break room, living on potato chips, cookies and soda and arguing about when to make a break from their quarters to possibly — but not definitely — safer ground.
The figures wandering the aisles aren’t customers, not anymore. They’re zombies. Their origins are uncertain, but their motives are clear. Allison knows they want to pick her brains, and not for book recommendations.
There’s no boring beginning in “Allison Hewitt is Trapped.” Author Madeleine Roux introduces the eponymous heroine in the thick of action, the first in a long string of conflicts.
Allison’s only way to communicate with the outside world (or what’s left of it) is through her blog. She updates on her laptop when she finds pockets of wireless, and thus her story unfolds. Her priority is to find her mother and make it to the enclave Liberty Village in Colorado. Armed with an ax and a German shepherd mix — what’s a post-apocalyptic story without a canine sidekick? — Allison treks through the Midwest. Her journey will reveal not just what it takes for her to remain human, but also to retain her humanity.
If it seems unrealistic that someone would cart around a laptop during a zombie outbreak, well, it is. And the technology already feels quaint. Why isn’t Allison using her iPhone to tweet her whereabouts and check in on Foursquare?
Still, a simple blog is an effective method by which to tell a story. The comments from readers mean it’s not just Allison’s tale, and give the eerie feeling of widespread devastation. In a way, the blog format is reminiscent of “Dracula,” which is told mostly through diary entries and letters, and it’s an excellent way to create suspense.
Allison herself is an admirable character: level-headed, emotional, brave and sarcastic. She’s unafraid to make decisions, even though they’re not always the right ones, and she stands by her principles once she figures them out. Her new existence pushes her mentally, physically and emotionally, and leave us wondering what we’d do in her position.
“Allison Hewitt is Trapped” isn’t spine-tinglingly scary or mind-bendingly profound, but after trick-or-treaters have claimed the last of the candy, it’s good enough to curl up with for an entertaining Halloween evening. For those who enjoy it, good news — the sequel, “Sadie Walker is Stranded,” is already out.