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Book Review: Katzenjammer


Katzenjammer, by Francesca Zappia. It certainly is... a book. Or is it a fever dream? Let's just go with: it's a fever dream in book form. I absolutely loved Eliza and Her Monsters by Zappia, and I thought Katzenjammer might be similar. Nope. Not at all. Not even a little. And that's okay, it's perfectly fine for an author to write in a different style or genre. I just want people who loved Eliza and Her Monsters to know that this is not that. This is a violent, gory, confusing fever dream of a book. And I liked it.


The main premise in Katzenjammer is that Cat and her schoolmates are trapped in School. Some of them have transformed into strange creatures (a porcelain doll, a boy with a cardboard box for a head, Cat herself, with a fleshmask in cat shape that she can't take off, etc.), while others have remained their normal selves. None of them remember how they came to be trapped in School. There are no doors through which they can leave.


Some of the transformed kids continue to change until they eventually stop talking, and wander School, violently attacking anyone they come across. After someone starts murdering the changed kids, Cat makes it her mission to find out who is behind it. She has a feeling that discovering the identity of the murderer will somehow make escaping School possible. While she is searching for the culprit, she begins remembering things that happened before everyone became trapped in School. The recovered memories eventually explain everything.


Before writing this review, I looked up the meaning for Katzenjammer. I didn't know it was a German word, and thought, prior to reading, that the title was something Zappia had come up with, and what it meant would be made clear in context with the book. Now I know the opposite is true. If I had known what Katzenjammer meant, it would have been a clue as to what I was in for. According to Google:


katz·en·jam·mer

/ˈkatsənˌjamər/

noun DATED•INFORMAL

confusion; uproar.

a hangover; a severe headache resulting from a hangover.


In conclusion (what is this, an eighth grade English essay?), what I expected from Katzenjammer was not what I got, but in hindsight, I got what was on the tin. This book is a confusing, gory fever dream--but it is meant to be. Read at your own risk. Four out of five stars, because although I thought the concept was well done, there are a lot of named, but mostly inconsequential characters, and it is easy to get them mixed up. Although, that might have been intentional as well, based on the theme of the book. Well played, Zappia. Well played. (P.S. Who hurt you?)

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