Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Posted June 24, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Something Strange and Deadly

Something Strange and Deadly

by Susan Dennard

Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Publisher: HarperTeen on July 24, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Target Age Group: New Adult, Young Adult
Rating: ★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.


Something Strange and Deadly falls squarely into the realm of the forgettable.  With an intended audience of 14 y/os, this feels more like a paranormal romance for older teens.  It’s a little dark, but ultimately it’s a distracted story with a frail protagonist and just… not Susan Dennard’s best work.

For those who enjoy paranormal romance, this isn’t so bad.  Particularly for the YA genre, if you’re looking for something “clean”, with nothing heavier than kissing.  It’s a bit sappy and with that paranormal romance tendency of giving you a compelling setting (zombies!) but rich with fluttering eyelashes and light on believable adventure.  Because of this very reason, the essence of the thing, I don’t love paranormal romance.  So I’m a bit jaded.

Our protagonist is Miss Eleanor Fitt… mostly referred to as “Miss Fitt”.  … As in “misfit”, and yes, that was very much on purpose, because Eleanor calls herself a “misfit” in her growth arc.  It was a bit much for me even before it became part of the story, so that set me on edge immediately.  Eleanor is probably the least interesting protagonist possible in this book.  She’s not sure what she wants and she has difficulty focussing on anything particular throughout the plot, proving to be a bit flighty throughout, and therefore, distracting from the plot as frequently as she herself became distracted.

Given the weight of relationships in this book, they aren’t very believable.  Eleanor’s got herself a love triangle and maybe I missed something important, but I didn’t feel any sort of spark between her and any of the characters.  One of the possible love interests resolves itself and her reaction – given the lack of general emotion – made no sense to me.  Characters are brought in as important, then discarded.  The plot barely moves until it jumps.

Without being too spoilery, there’s a lot of things that really bothered me about characterization and plot progression in Something Strange and Deadly.  The way Eleanor turned all goofy and insecure all the time, and at inconvenient moments.  The miraculous evolution of her character in dire moments when most of the time that could have been character evolution was spent on reputation and romance.  I think Dennard wanted to build sympathy for the villain, but it didn’t play out.

The Spirit Hunters were far and away the most interesting collective in the book, but the attention was given to the least interesting of their band.  For from their perspective – even a multi POV – would have been more interesting, I think.  So, for me, a lot of appeal was lost o Eleanor.

The world building turned very … name-droppy.  You know those period pieces where specific terminology or items seems to be used in excess because the author wants to show how well the researched?  Something Strange and Deadly was so gusty of hat, to the point that it stuck out clunky in the writing.

So, I mean, I don’t think I recommend this book personally.  It’s not a terrible book, but like I said at the beginning it’s not memorable.  It’s an enjoyable romp for readers of YA who enjoy paranormal romance as well, but if you’re looking for a YA horror novel, or zombie and steampunk, well?  I don’t think this will meet expectations.  It’s a decent book for the right audience, but that audience isn’t me.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★
Narrator: ★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★


How do you feel about steampunk and zombies?  Are they a good mix? Weird mix?  Gross?  Do you have any books like this to offer?  Let me know in the comments what you think!

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