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Dead City

Book #1 of Dead City



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About The Book

The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins says this paranormal action-adventure “breathes new life into the zombie genre” and has “a terrific twist of an ending.”

Most kids have enough to deal with between school, homework, extracurricular activities, and friends, but Molly Bigelow has something else on her list: hunting zombies. By day, Molly attends MIST—the Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology—but outside the classroom she’s busy dealing with the undead. Because not only do zombies exist, they’re everywhere, and it’s her job to help police them and keep the peace. Sure, she’d like to be a regular kid, but given that her mother was the most revered (or feared, depending on your perspective) zombie hunter in the history of New York City, “regular” just isn’t possible. Molly’s got some legendary footsteps to follow—and some undeadly consequences if she fails.


Dead City

You’re Probably Wondering Why There’s a Dead Body in the Bathroom . . .
I hate zombies.

I know that sounds prejudiced. I’m sure some zombies are really nice to kittens and love their parents. But it’s been my experience that most are not the kind of people you want sending you friend requests.

Consider my current situation. Instead of eating pizza with my teammates as they celebrate my surprise victory at the St. Andrew’s Prep fencing tournament, I’m trapped in a locker-room toilet stall.

With a dead body.

It’s not exactly the Saturday I had planned. I wasn’t even supposed to compete in the tournament. Since most of the girls on the team are juniors and seniors and I’m in seventh grade, I was just going to be an alternate. But Hannah Gilbert didn’t show up, and I filled in for her at the last moment. Five matches later my teammates were jumping up and down and pouring Gatorade on my head.

And that was the first problem.

I may not be the girliest girl, but I didn’t really want to ride the subway with sticky orange hair. So I decided to clean up while everyone else headed down to the pizzeria to get a table and order a couple of large pies.

I had just finished my shower when I heard zombie noises coming my way. (I know, they hate to be called the z-word, but I hate being attacked in the bathroom, so I guess we’re even.)

At first I thought it was one of my teammates playing a joke on me. But when I saw the reflection of the walking dead guy in the mirror, I realized it was Life playing a joke on me. I mean, is it too much to ask for just a couple hours of normal?

To make matters worse, this zombie and I had something of a history. During an earlier encounter, I sort of chopped off his left hand. I won’t go into the details, but trust me when I say it was a “have to” situation. Anyway, now he was looking to settle a grudge, and all my gear was in a bag on the other side of the locker room. Too bad, because moments like these were the reason I took up fencing in the first place.

He looked at me with his cold dead eyes and waved his stump in my face to remind me why he was in such a bad mood. All I had to protect myself with was the towel I was wearing and my flat iron. Since I was not about to let Mr. Evil Dead see me naked, I went with the flat iron.

My first move was to slash him across the face, which was a total waste of time. Yes, it burned a lot of flesh. But since zombies feel no pain, it didn’t slow him down one bit. Plus, no way was I ever going to let that flat iron touch my hair again, so I was down thirty bucks and I still had a zombie problem.

Next, he slammed me against the wall. That hurt unbelievably bad and turned my shoulder purple. (A color I like in clothes, but not so much when it comes to skin tone.) On the bright side, when I got back up I was in the perfect position for a ballestra, my favorite fencing move. It combines a jump forward with a lunge, and it worked like a charm.

The flat iron punctured his rib cage and went deep into his chest. It got stuck when I tried to yank it out, so I just started flicking it open and shut inside his body. This distracted him long enough for me to grab him at the base of the skull and slam his head into the marble countertop.

I don’t know how much tuition runs at St. Andrew’s, but their bathrooms have some high-quality marble. He went from undead to just plain dead on the spot.

All told, it took about forty seconds. But that’s the problem with killing zombies. It’s like when my dad and I make spaghetti sauce together. The hard part’s not so much the doing as it is the cleanup afterward.

If this had been a public-school locker room, there would have been some gray jumbo-sized garbage cans nearby, and I probably could’ve taken care of cleanup by myself. But apparently the girls of St. Andrew’s don’t throw anything away, because all they had was a tiny wastebasket and some recycling bins. There were bins for paper, plastic, and glass, but none for rotting corpses. Go figure.

That meant I had to drag the body into a stall, text my friends for help, and call my coach with an excuse about how I had to go straight home. Now I’m stuck here sitting on a toilet, my hair’s a total mess, and after two bottles of hand sanitizer, I still feel like I’ve got dead guy all over me. And don’t even get me started about how hungry I am!

If you had told me any of this a few months ago, I would have said you needed to visit the school nurse. That’s because before I was Molly Bigelow, superhero zombie terminator, I was just an invisible girl in the back of the classroom who you’d probably never notice.

I’m sure none of this makes any sense. I mean, it’s still hard for me to understand, and I’m the one who just did it. So while I wait for help to arrive, I’ll try to explain. I understand if you don’t believe it, but trust me when I say that every word is true.

It all started more than a hundred years ago, when an explosion killed thirteen men digging one of New York’s first subway tunnels. But my part didn’t begin until one day last summer, when I was hanging out at the morgue. . . .

About The Author

Elena Seibert Photography

James Ponti is the New York Times bestselling author of four middle grade book series: The Sherlock Society following a group of young detectives; City Spies, about an unlikely squad of five kids from around the world who form an elite MI6 Spy Team; the Edgar Award–winning Framed! series, about a pair of tweens who solve mysteries in Washington, DC; and the Dead City trilogy, about a secret society that polices the undead living beneath Manhattan. His books have appeared on more than fifteen different state award lists, and he is the founder of a writers group known as the Renegades of Middle Grade. James is also an Emmy–nominated television writer and producer who has worked for many networks including Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, PBS, History, and Spike TV, as well as NBC Sports. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. Find out more at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (October 2, 2012)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442441293
  • Grades: 4 - 8
  • Ages: 9 - 13
  • Lexile ® 720L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

In Dead City, James Ponti cleverly weaves Manhattan history into an action-packed plot to breathe new life into the zombie genre. Brainy, funny, and socially baffled Molly Bigelow makes for an irresistible narrator as she drives the story to a terrific twist of an ending. If I’d had the next installment, I’d have dived right in.—Suzanne Collins, author of THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy

"In Ponti’s breezy and adventure-driven story, readers follow Molly and the Omegas as they connect the dots between the explosion, Little Women, the Dewey Decimal System and the Periodic Table of Elements. It works. Ponti incorporates New York City sights and gory zombie descriptions in a quick transit to an exciting finale with high-blown dramatics and a surprisingly tender moment.

A fast-paced read for those who like their zombies with just a little fright."
- Kirkus Reviews, September 2012

Awards and Honors

  • Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee (AZ)
  • Sunshine State Young Readers' Award List (FL)
  • Texas Bluebonnet Master List
  • Truman Reader Award Final Nominee (MO)

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More books in this series: Dead City