In Charlie Higson's The Dead, the world has come to a cataclysmic state, in which anyone that had been over the age of sixteen, would loose their minds, becoming feral to the point in which they would attack people. One could compare them to zombies, and so do the characters in the book. With no adults to keep things like electricity in order, the world fell into chaos. Chaos to the point where adults, that surprisingly hadn't succumb to the sickness, couldn't pick up the slack due to the fact that seeing a healthy adult was probably the rarest thing that could ever happen to you. The fact that adults were not around to protect their sons and daughters anymore caused the underage children to have to fend for themselves, as well as find their own food. Among the population of children, each group has a different name to call the former adults. Some of these would include Sickos, Strangers, and Mothers and Fathers.
The book also mentions the countryside, explaining that it's even worse out there than in the city. People all had the same idea, to flee to the countryside to grow crops. Thus the countryside is told to be littered with corpses, and filled with chaos.
Children and teenagers are forced to take up a former parent's duties, like finding food, and taking care of the younger children. This can be supported by texts written in the book, even if it is not directly mentioned. Ed had once referenced that he realized he had to care for the group's younger children, as well as Jack, so when the children would play, neither of them would stop them. They realized that if the children played, they would temporarily forget about their dire situation, and be at peace, laughing and smiling. They also realized that food would help their morale as well, so when they had discovered a good amount of food, it became evident that everyone's spirits had been raised.
It would be difficult to decide on one main protagonist, since the book gives the majority of characters their own chapters to give their thoughts and point of views, sometimes without even going into a different chapter.
However, some protagonists that could be considered as a main protagonist, due to the amount of chapters they get exclusively to themselves and their roles within the book would be the following:
Jack: While his last name is never mentioned in the book, Jack is a teenager who has a birthmark on his cheek, and hadn't always been the most outgoing person in his former school, Rowhurst, due to it. People would scrutinize him for having such a hideous blemish on his face. Though this all changed once he was forced to survive with some of his schoolmates, to the point where he would often appear to be the group's leader due to his confidence, persistence, and bravery. The events that occurred definitely had changed him, and he himself even noted it in the book. However despite all his bravery, all his courage and newly gained confidence during the tragedy, he was still troubled by the fact he was never able to return home. So much that at a certain point in the book, Jack had attempted to make his way to his home just to recollect on how the world used to be, with three other friends.
Ed Carter: Ed, who was good friends with Jack in school, was practically the opposite of Jack. He was outgoing, and according to Jack, he always seemed to know how to act and know what to say in conversations. Ed was popular in school, seemingly friends with everyone. However when the sickened adults started trying to kill him and his friends, he would never be violent towards them like the others. Ed acknowledged the fact that they were barely human anymore, but he could never bring himself to kill one. He couldn't take the feeling of smashing flesh. However this changed at some point in the book, in which he accompanied Jack on his trip to Jack's former home. Jack had been injured, and the other teenager, Bam, was being overwhelmed. According to Ed, something clicked in his mind, and without thinking he was able to help his friends. From this point on, Ed's personality changed.
The book is classified as horror, but it's hard to become scared from text in a book. However it does add excitement, and Charlie Higson seems to know just how to hit the nail on the head, providing original twists on a lot of events, and antagonists to separate them from the normal cliche zombies. I won't spoil anything, but The Enemy series has been good so far, and even though The Dead takes place a year before The Enemy, I would recommend reading The Enemy first. It helps provide a sense of accomplishment when things start to fall in line with The Enemy, and makes you want to find out what happens next when the story ends with where The Enemy had also ended.