Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel


Does only reading the dialogue after 25% count as a DNF?

Boy. This book. I don’t even know where to start.

It was like the Pride Prejudice and Zombies movie plot without the action scenes. What then, you might ask, keeps the pace going?

Nothing. The answer is nothing.

This is 400 pages of exposition. The backstory of how the world became a Victorian society came in the form of an essay that the MC wrote. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds. And then, the zombie plague backstory came in the form of ‘dialogue’ between two people on the opposite sides of a closed door. For like 20% of the book. /beats head against wall

The Victorian dystopia was such an amazing idea, and I couldn’t wait to see it be incorporated into the story…except it was completely irrelevant. The girls wore dresses and had manners and rode carriages. Whoopty doo. I don’t know what I expected, but not some superficial material things that only made it strange instead of immersive.

And then there’s the zombies. Some go crazy and some keep their minds, much like in Rise of the Chosen, though they still want to eat people. Except as the story goes on, the cannibalistic nature of zombies is kinda swept under the rug and goes from ‘our body is disintegrating and we’re going to go crazy eventually but while we’re sane we’ll help the living’ to ‘all zombies who are sane should be reintegrated into society’. Umm no? That’s a total contradiction to what was said about them in the beginning. o_O

As a story about zombies and war and death, you’d expect action and…well, death. Instead, we get a girl kidnapped in a nightgown after taking two shots at a zombie and a girl beat a zombie with an umbrella. No, really, that’s it. Ok, so maybe there was some more stuff going on in the last quarter of the book, but by then I just wanted the torture to end.

Also, I don’t mind 1st person POV, but FIVE? It got quite confusing for a while there.

Why did I finish it, then? A part of me really wanted to like it because it’s a similar idea to Rise. If you just take the main story, it wasn’t actually bad. However, I skimmed probably about 75% of it because it was just telling us information instead of showing it.

Very recently I was given great advice in a critique group. Instead of the problem being ‘telling not showing’ look at it as ‘telling not happening’. Read and highlight parts where something is being told versus something that is happening. Then fix the parts where it’s being told. This book is 90% being told and even though the story itself wasn’t half bad, it was dreadfully boring because of it.

I won’t star rate it because I believe that my dislike for its narrative structure is subjective. Somehow (how? no seriously, how?), this book got an agent and sold thousands of copies. It has over 9,000 ratings, with half of those loving it. I’m guessing those people loved Pride and Prejudice as well, so if you did you might enjoy this one. To me, I can’t wait to read something else.

Pretty cover, though.


2 thoughts on “Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

  1. I don’t know if I’ve had this conversation with you before, but I know I’ve had it before: The job of a book critiquer is, at its heart, as a tour guide. You let the reading world know what kind of a reader you are, and offer that, if they are a reader like you, perhaps they would like to go this way instead of that.

    I know too many critiquers who don’t want to write a review if it isn’t glowing. I understand the sentiment, but I think that identifying what books do not fit your style is as important as identifying which ones are perfect for readers like you. So, thank you. Thank you for giving an honest review!


    • I don’t like writing negative reviews but I also don’t want to shy away from showing my honest opinion, or my good reviews feel artificial. I would never write something like ‘don’t read this book it sucks’ but I will say if I personally didn’t like it and why. Three thousand people loved this book and I have to mention that too.

      However, I don’t leave low star ratings because I feel like if a writer put the effort into writing something, they shouldn’t be put down for it on a rating system. That’s a whole different ballgame.

      Liked by 1 person

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