The Undead: Playing for Keeps by Elsie Elmore


The Undead: Playing for Keeps by Elsie Elmore

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

When an undead woman with serious de-comp issues stalks sixteen-year-old Lyla Grimm, her hope of rescuing her rock-bottom reputation takes a back seat. Especially once Lyla’s new talent of resurrecting the dead draws the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder.

While Lyla navigates the gossip-ridden halls, Eric works to gain her trust and discover why Death’s clients aren’t staying down. If she passes on her gift, his death-messenger destiny might be altered. But the closer he gets to Lyla, the less sure he is of his plan. The dead are way easier to deal with than the living.

Gossip explodes, the Grimm family implodes, and desperation sets in. Death wants the gift and a soul. Lyla and Eric face hard choices with hidden consequences. Sometimes life’s choices aren’t really choices at all.

I’ll admit that when I first saw the cover for this, I wasn’t terribly impressed. But don’t let it sway you, this is a fantastic read. Elmore had me hooked from the first sentence, and she never let me down. The Undead: Playing for Keeps is not your average zombie story. It starts with Lyla Grimm, the daughter of a mortician, applying make-up to a corpse after the cosmetologist for her family’s funeral home quits with a horrifying flourish. What she doesn’t know is that her touch is special — she can reanimate the dead. When the body mysteriously disappears later that night, rumors start to circulate.

Speculation isn’t the only thing the oddity draws, though. It also garners the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper/rock star. Sent to find out why the dead aren’t staying that way, Eric and Lyla’s paths soon cross. What happens after will keep you guessing, and the ultimate reveal doesn’t disappoint. Deceptively simple in its good vs. evil set-up, this book is actually about issues that resonate on a much deeper level — identity, self-confidence, morality, and bullying. Lyla struggles to find herself in the face of ridicule and gossip, much like “normal” teenagers do. The paranormal addition is expertly delivered with a gruesome creepiness that surprised me, but it was the humanity in the story and characters that I enjoyed most. The dual POV is strong, and each character has a distinctive voice. Elmore’s prose is effortless and smooth, and I found the entire experience to be engrossing. Fast-paced, but gripping, I highly recommend this book to fans of YA urban fantasy/paranormal romance. In a genre that is over-filled with mediocrity, this book stands out. I will most definitely be reading more of Elmore’s work in the future.

**Disclosure Statement: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **