Published June 28, 2022
AMERICAN HORROR STORY meets the dark comedy of Kafka’s THE METAMORPHOSIS as Cat searches for a way to escape her high school. A tale of family, love, tragedy, and masks–the ones others make for us, and the ones we make for ourselves. Katzenjammer will haunt fans of Chelsea Pitcher’s THIS LIE WILL KILL YOU and E. Lockhart’s WE WERE LIARS.
Cat lives in her high school. She never leaves, and for a long time her school has provided her with everything she needs. But now things are changing. The hallways contract and expand along with the school’s breathing, and the showers in the bathroom run a bloody red. Cat’s best friend is slowly turning into cardboard, and instead of a face, Cat has a cat mask made of her own hardened flesh.
Cat doesn’t remember why she is trapped in her school or why half of them–Cat included–are slowly transforming. Escaping has always been the one impossibility in her school’s upside-down world. But to save herself from the eventual self-destruction all the students face, Cat must find the way out. And to do that, she’ll have to remember what put her there in the first place.
Using chapters alternating between the past and the present, acclaimed author Francesca Zappia weaves a spine-tingling, suspenseful, and haunting story about tragedy and the power of memories. Fans of Marieke Nijkamp’s THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS and Karen McManus’s ONE OF US IS LYING will lose themselves in the pages of this novel–or maybe in the treacherous hallways of the school.
So I read this book after hearing Marines at My Name Is Marines talk about it in her video. From what she said about it, I was super intrigued. So when I got a chance to snag a review copy from Children’s Literature, an organization that I also review for, I grabbed it.
First– it’s very weird. Like, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that’s as off-beat and truly strange as this book is. It felt like it could be a BLACK MIRROR episode.
The sentient School and all the physical changes Cat and her classmates are experiencing feel really purposeful and symbolic. Like there’s meaning to be gathered, or like if Cat can just recollect all her memories, it will all make some kind of sense. So I loved that setup and all the tension there. Being trapped in the School makes the story a closed circle, and right away Cat gets pulled into trying to find out who killed one of her classmates.
I’m not usually a horror reader, but I think the weird factor is what drew me to the book. There were a couple times that the gory descriptions of things got a little overwhelming to me. By that point, I was so wrapped up in the story that I kept reading anyway. Though there are those gory descriptions, they’re usually pretty short. There’s one scene where that’s kind of extended, but it’s the climax of the story, so it makes sense that that scene would be the most intense.
On the whole, I did enjoy the book. I liked what it has to say about bullying and the way that friends can change in ways we don’t recognize– for good and bad. It’s certainly not a book for everyone, but if you’re into weird and you don’t mind horror elements, definitely check out KATZENJAMMER.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Cat expresses attraction to both boys and girls. She has a lazy eye. One of her classmates has eczema.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.
Kissing between a boy and girl. At one point they discuss doing more, but decide to wait until later. A video appears online of a boy and girl making out. Someone has added a soundtrack from a porn video to suggest that they’re doing more than kissing.
Cat lives in a School that is sentient and changes itself unpredictably. Showers spray blood. Rooms appear in different places. The school inhales (stretching hallways high and wide) and exhales, compressing spaces uncomfortably small. Some of the students experience changes, too. For example, Cat’s face is a cat-shaped mask made of hardened flesh. Her best friend’s head is a cardboard box.
A group of students bully others, using cruel words and social media posts. At one point, they destroy the property of another student. One boy takes advantage of a girl’s crush on him, trying to make a fool of her.
In the School, some students no longer remember who they are and wander the halls, attacking anyone they come across. Cat and Jeffrey find the mutilated bodies of multiple classmates. One classmate cuts off his hand in front of her. Later they see it nailed to a door. A boy cuts off a girl’s finger. Cat battles another student who intends to kill her in a room where knives fall from the ceiling. Someone shoots a boy in the chest and a girl in the face.
Some graphic descriptions of injuries and peril.
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