Book Review: Eat Your Heart Out: a novella, Dayna Ingram (2011)

February 24th, 2014 12:45 pm by Kelly Garbato

Layers of Fun!

four out of four stars

Twenty-two-year-old furniture saleswoman Devin is the unlikeliest of heroes: She’s prone to fainting spells. She’s socially awkward and has trouble approaching customers (Her coworker Cherry’s advice? Just picture everyone with a giant penis in their mouth!) or carrying on “normal” “adult” conversations (Scare quotes because who wants to act like a grownup anyway?). She tends to wet her pants when threatened. She’s completely oblivious to the fact that her longtime girlfriend, the improbably named Carmelle Souffle, is cheating on her (and, when she finds out, she immediately faints…and then forgives Carmelle).

And she manages to get herself bit just hours into the zombie apocalypse that sweeps through Buttfuck, Ohio. Sure, she was trying to rescue her big bear of a boss, Biff, at the time, but still. Rookie mistake!

The plot of Eat Your Heart Out: a novella is pretty standard zombie fare: the dead start rising, and so the living try to get the heck out of dodge. Luckily, the plot is mostly incidental to Dayna Ingram’s expert wordslinging. Ingram’s got a wicked fun sense of humor and a delightful potty mouth. The pop culture references are many; the fangirl angle, fun and kind of meta (reminiscent of some of the better episodes of Supernatural, I think); the disembodied, floating penises, epically hilarious; and the lesbian subplots pretty much seal the deal.

The cast is rather diverse, with no fewer than four lesbians and/or bisexual women, and one woman of color in the form of movie star Renni Fucking Ramirez, of the zombie-movie-with-an-arguably-lesbian-subtext, Rising Evil. Girlfriend Carmelle is a former stripper who works at an adult store, The Sweet Onion (“Layers of Fun!”). Even though she’s the cheater (Devin catches her in the act when she gallantly kicks down the doors of The Sweet Onion in order to “save” Carmelle), Ingram portrays their slowly crumbling relationship with such compassion and nuance that I kind of felt bad for the both of them. (Though the ambiguous resolution is a relief.)

Devin’s aforementioned loose bladder is also a welcome surprise; so few horror writers acknowledge the indignities of human biology in life-or-death situations. (Again, I’m reminded of Supernatural – specifically, “The Mystery Spot,” wherein one of Dean’s many deaths involves vehicular manslaughter. “Did it look cool, like in the movies?” “You peed yourself.” “Of course I peed myself. Man gets hit by a car, you think he has full control over his bladder? Come on!”) Devin’s references to her overactive bladder are many, and she soils more than one pair of clean (well, save for the zombie guts) pants by letting loose. I can relate; if I were to ever find myself in a zombie apocalypse, I’d be carrying around a package of Depends alongside my machete and MREs.

Devin’s copious knowledge of zombie lore – not to mention, her expertise at dropping zombies, thanks in no small part to first-person shooter games – opens yet another avenue of self-referential comedic fodder.

Eat Your Heart Out is the most fun I’ve had reading a zombie book in a long while. With kick-ass heroines, witty banter, cultural references like whoah, girl-on-girl love triangles, and a Nick Fury lookalike, you just can’t go wrong. The zombies are just icing on the cake. (Vegan buttercream, because that poor vegetarian zombie deserves a break!)

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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