Keep Me Posted!

Sign me up for the latest news from Penguin Teen, including new books, special offers, and promotions.

Author Sarah Glenn Marsh Talks Life Lessons from the Undead


Raising the Dead: Vampires, Zombies, and Witches—Oh My!

By Sarah Glenn Marsh


Nosferatu. Dracula. Lestat. Spike and Angel. Selene. Edward Cullen. Love them or hate them, you know their names. But have you ever thought about why? What is it about vampires that’s so fascinating and enduring that they’ve been winding up in our stories since ancient times, thrilling some and horrifying others—often lurking in the shadows, but always present?

It’s definitely not their sparkling good looks (okay, for some people, that must be part of it!).

But mostly, it’s the same thing that draws us to shows like The Walking Dead, to the White Walkers on Game of Thrones, and to those movies, too many to name, with titles ending in “Of the Dead.” Undead armies march across fantasy books, from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles to Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series to Max Brooks’s World War Z. Sometimes, the people controlling the undead are heroes. Sometimes they’re the villains. The bottom line is, from the big screen to books, video games, and music, we might as well face it: the living dead are everywhere. And if you peer into the past, you’ll find that’s always been the case.

The idea of cheating death, either by becoming a bloodsucker or other sort of wraith (hello, Lord Voldemort) or by dying and returning to life through magical means has long persisted across many cultures. The term ‘zombie,’ for instance, comes from Haitian folklore, where zombies are dead bodies reanimated through magic. In Western pop culture, zombies tend to originate from some sort of virus, like on the CW show iZombie, but the result is the same: the reanimated dead walking among the living.

Vampires, zombies, and other forms of the undead have many things in common besides their ghastly eating habits: They’re dangerous, they’re often focused on revenge, and most importantly, they shouldn’t be here. We come from a culture that largely avoids death at every turn through practices like sending dead bodies of loved ones to funeral homes for preparation (a male-dominated industry that deserves its own lengthy post). We mourn our dead, but that period of mourning is expected, by and large, to be brief. People don’t want to share in others’ grief, particularly not for months on end. It makes them uncomfortable, because our culture as a whole isn’t comfortable with death. For many, the thought of their final moments makes them downright terrified. After all, death is a mystery. It’s the great unknown.

So when we hear tales of creatures like vampires and zombies, who have found a way around the final mystery—sometimes with the help of a necromancer or witch, someone who raises the dead through magical means—we might then wonder: What if death wasn’t permanent? What would someone’s new life be like as one of the undead? Would their second life, so to speak, be worth it? And in the case of the violent undead—what would we, the living, be willing to do in order to survive?

We know the undead aren’t real, but that’s precisely what’s so compelling about them: they give us the safe haven of a fictional narrative in which to emotionally cope with the possibility of our own deaths, to examine what’s important about life, and to explore how far we would be willing to go to protect our precious lives. As long as what happens after death remains a mystery, tales of the undead will continue to invade (couldn’t resist) our popular culture. The undead emphasize just how much we value life, and speak to humans’ innate desire to survive against all odds. They show our wish to improve the world even when it seems impossible, by defeating death, the ultimate cause of so much pain and sorrow.

And, you know, they give us an excuse to brush up on our plans for the apocalypse. Never hurts to be prepared!


Need more of Sarah Glenn Marsh’s knowledge of the undead? You’re in luck. SONG OF THE DEAD comes out January 22nd!


Haven’t read Reign of the Fallen yet? Checkout these 5 reasons you’re going to fall in love with it!


Penguin Teen on Tour!

Not one, not two, but THREE internationally bestselling authors are coming together for the book tour of a lifetime! From historical fantasy, to royal intrigue, to dystopian survival, authors Marie Lu, Melissa de la Cruz, and Astrid Scholte are ready to celebrate some of 2020’s biggest books, and you’re invited! Check below to see if they’re coming … Continued
See More

Rosaria Munda’s Fantasy Book Recs!

Fireborne is Rosaria Munda’s thrilling fantasy debut. In case you’re new to this Game of Thrones meets Harry Potter fantasy you’ve always needed in your life story, here’s a bit about the book! About Fireborne: Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing … Continued
See More

11 Authors you really should be following on Instagram

Looking for writing tips? Sneak peeks into future books? General awesome content? There are a few authors you should definitely be following!   Ruta Sepetys View this post on Instagram The first edition of THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE is back from the printer. Such an emotional author moment! After years of writing and research, seeing … Continued
See More

5 Life Lessons from Netflix’s CHEER

Author Jennifer Iacopelli of Break the Fall, like us, is a HUGE fan of Netflix’s addictive new original: CHEER. So, we asked her to share her top five takeaways! Here are 5 life lessons from Netflix’s CHEER.   Try New Things   Take a page out of Gabi Butler’s book and don’t be afraid to try something … Continued
See More

Welcome to the We Are YA Podcast!

YA books are longer than 280 characters. Conversations about YA should be too. Welcome to the We Are YA podcast! Over 7 episodes, host Anna Borges will be talking all all things YA with the amazing authors that make up the modern YA community. Here is where you can find additional information and links to each episode! … Continued
See More

Top 5 Writing Tips…from Debut Authors!

Any aspiring writers out there? We see you! And we something super exciting to share today. You’ve probably noticed a lot of amazing debuts hitting shelves this year. In fact, had a whole #NewBooksNewVoices celebration! Now, those authors are here to share with you their absolute BEST writing tips!   Laura Sibson, author of The Art of … Continued
See More

A Q&A with Adib Khorram

We are IN LOVE with the cover for Darius the Great Deserves Better, and it got us thinking about some questions we have both about the cover and what to expect going into book 2! Luckily, Adib Khorram was kind enough to answer our questions. Scroll down for the Q&A! A Q&A with Adib Khorram! Q: We … Continued
See More

9 Authors who absolutely cannot wait for The Beautiful!

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh is hitting shelves in just a couple of weeks, and there are a few beloved YA authors who have some early tickets to the hype train 🌹📚   From Queen Marie Lu,   To the amazing Sarah Nicole Lemon! “And to think I read it as a Word doc. I feel so … Continued
See More

Plotting with Rosaria Munda

If you’ve been paying attention to the goings on of YA, you’ve probably have noticed a whole lot of chatter about the amazingness that is Fireborne by Rosaria Munda. Between the dragons, political intrigue, and wildly complex relationships of characters that had our hearts absolutely aching, Rosaria Munda pretty much captivated fantasy shelves everywhere. And that’s why we decided to … Continued
See More

The first excerpt of Steel Tide…with Natalie C. Parker’s commentary!

With Seafire‘s stunning paperback glow-up now gracing shelves and Steel Tide just around the corner, it’s time for an excerpt! Not just any excerpt though…we’ve got author commentary! Natalie C. Parker is giving insider info and commentary on all things Caledonia in the first riveting (annotated!) chapter of STEEL TIDE! Find the excerpt and her notes below with … Continued
See More