Chapter One: In Which I Say Good-bye to Seventh Grade

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It was the last day of seventh grade and everyone at school was excited for summer, except for me.

I've always preferred the structure of school to the chaos of summer. Besides being hot and sticky, July and August are family road-trip months. Each year, Dad piles us into the minivan and hurls us down a potholed interstate for enforced family fun. But he's more focused on 'making good time' than having a good time. To be honest, it's misery on wheels. Mom frets about her patients, Amanda stays glued to her phone, and I get carsick.

Every time.

Cramming four humans (well, three humans plus a zombie) in a steel cage and hurtling down the highway at sixty-five miles per hour is not a recipe for anything but family friction, body odour, and vomit.

And besides, since coming back from the dead, I just don't have that much in common with my family unit any more. They're the living, and I'm . . . the living dead.

When you're a zombie, you don't fit in like you used to. (Yep, you heard me right. I am a zombie. If you're coming to this story without knowing that, I suggest you track down a copy of my first book, Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie.)

At school, I just do my best to blend in. Thanks to all the make-up tips I found on YouTube, I now cover up my decomposing, grey skin. It may not look supple and vibrant, but at least it passes for tweenage and pubescent. And since I'd lied about faking my own death to hide out in the Witness Relocation Programme, Croxton Middle School welcomed me back as a pupil. Nobody except my family and two new best friends, Ernesto the cheeky chupacabra and Corina the vegan vampire, needed to know that death had actually relocated me to a dark grave for three months.

It felt good to be back in seventh grade, but now it was coming to a close – the last day of school.

'It all goes home or in the garbage,' shouted Mr Paulson, our gym teacher. He marched up and down the hallway, ordering us soon-to-be eighth graders to empty our lockers before his summer could start. I carefully cleaned out my locker, which was not only my depot for hand sanitisers (I just didn't trust the soap in the boy's room), but also my shrine to the best superhero of all time.

But not even NinjaMan could save me from the annual summer road trip.

As I delicately packed up my belongings (everything in its place!), I wondered where Dad would hijack us to this summer. He was obsessed with the Founding Fathers, so I made a bet with Amanda that we'd schlep to Boston or Washington; maybe Philly if we were unlucky. Amanda's money was on Montana, convinced it was the one state in the union that didn't have reliable 3G coverage – thus cutting her off from the Croxton social scene for a season.

'A fate worse than death!' she'd declared at breakfast. 'Oh, sorry Adam,' she added hastily. 'But in the summer before high school, I've got to be available, accessible, and noticed.'

As I carefully peeled the limited edition NinjaMan v Amphibulus poster off my locker door, I detected a slight whiff of grapefruit and toilet cleaner in the air. It instantly made me smile.

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