Cat lives in her high school. She never leaves, and for a long time her school has provided her with everything she needs. But now things are changing.
I was sent an ARC of Katzenjammer by Francesca Zappia from HarperCollins Canada after participating in the #FrenzyPresent summer preview 2022 event offered to HCC Influencers and Canadian booksellers. Thank you, HarperCollins Canada! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
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About the Book
by Francesca Zappia
Publishing 28 June 2022
Genre: YA Paranormal Horror
Page Count: 304
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Cat lives in her high school. She never leaves, and for a long time her school has provided her with everything she needs. But now things are changing. The hallways contract and expand along with the school’s breathing, and the showers in the bathroom run a bloody red. Cat’s best friend is slowly turning into cardboard, and instead of a face, Cat has a cat mask made of her own hardened flesh.
Cat doesn’t remember why she is trapped in her school or why half of them—Cat included—are slowly transforming. Escaping has always been the one impossibility in her school’s upside-down world. But to save herself from the eventual self-destruction all the students face, Cat must find the way out. And to do that, she’ll have to remember what put her there in the first place.
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My Rating: 4 Stars
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Content Warnings: Death of teenagers, gore, self-injury and eating disorders, general violence, body horror
This book is beautifully creepy. Katzenjammer is a quick read, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it doesn’t have a whole lot packed in! Cat and the other students and staff at her school are trapped, and the school seems to have taken on a life of its own. Rooms and hallways grow and shrink as the building breathes. Cat and some of her friends have begun to change from entirely human into other things, and as the changes progress, humanity is lost. And now, something is killing them even faster.
This book is told entirely in first person from Cat’s point of view, but each chapter alternates between the present and her memories. It’s an interesting way to piece the story together as Cat herself figures out what’s going, and I think the experience of being a teenage girl in crisis was well captured. I love the way Cat sees her environment and describes things, and I love the way she strives to see the humanity left in her inhuman friends and teachers.
With that said, I would have liked to see the cycling between present and memory happen less frequently. No chapter lasts more than 5-6 pages (counting both sides of the page) and this is a large-print book, so we cycle very fast. We get Cat’s memories as she thinks about them, as she recovers them, or as a relevant bit of information is needed in the present, but it would have been nice to perhaps bundle 2-3 memories together so the reader can stay in the present or past for slightly longer stretches.
I did enjoy the mystery element. I guessed the twist right at the beginning but then events about 20% in made me start to second guess myself and imagine other ways the plot would resolve, so it was quite the ride! I actually finished reading this book (all in one sitting!) in early May, but didn’t write this review until late June after stewing on the experience for a while, and there have been recent events in the news (international to me) that made parts of this book really land a little harder. I’m curious to see this book go on sale and watch to see readers who might be closer to said events weigh in with their reviews.
This book is illustrated, though my ARC copy does not have all of the finished artwork that published copies will have. What I do have to look at it beautifully gritty in a horror graphic novel kind of way and has a vaguely manga stylistic feel. I’m very tempted to purchase a finished copy just to see the rest! On that note, I normally don’t comment on anything to do with editing and formatting in ARCs because they’re unfinished, but this comment is specific to the physical printing of my ARC copy: I hope that the print ARCs were printed on a lighter paper weight than the finished copies will be, because this paper can’t handle the amount of black ink on illustrated pages. The few fully illustrated pages mine has, plus any page where the chapter marker in on a loose corner rather than in the binding, all curl dramatically. This might not be noticeable in a hardback that has sturdy covers pressing in on the pages, but in a floppy paperback it has actually encouraged the back cover to curl as well, rather than straighten out over time.
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Want more? Check out my 5-star review of Gallant by V. E. Schwab, one of my ARCs from the previous HCC #FrenzyPresents ARC round.