I stumbled on this little treasure while doing some research for the MG novel I’m currently editing. The title immediately intrigued me and once I read the synopsis, I had to know just how a middle grade author could pull off a story about a boy who was dead. It didn’t take long for ‘Dead Boy’ by Laurel Gale to capture my interest!
Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a life.
Crow Darlingson died in the 4th grade. But he’s still alive. And growing, actually. He can’t eat or taste anything, his body parts sometimes fall off (mom always sews them back on, though), and he’s only allowed to leave his house once per year, on Halloween.
Crow’s parents are separating, and despite their reassurances, he’s pretty sure it’s his fault. After all, having an undead son can’t be much easier than being one. Sneaking out at night only makes things worse, but he can’t resist the chance at a real friendship with Melody Plympton, the new girl next door, who loves mystery more than she minds the stink of his flesh or the maggots that sometimes crawl out of his nose.
Together they investigate the mysterious Meera – a monster living in the nearby park. Logic and fear tell Crow to stay away, but fuzzy memories lure him on. When Crow and Melody venture into its underground lair, Crow’s not just risking the half-life he clings to. He’s also risking the only friend he’s had in years.
The importance of friendship is crystallized as Crow and Melody face tests of loyalty, courage, and honor in this macabre middle grade novel by a debut author.
The Short: 4 out of 5 Stars
The Long: Let me start by saying this book is a gem for middle grade readers! Yes, it’s about a boy who is dead. And yes, that may seem macabre and dark at first, but the author has made sure it’s age appropriate and fun! The reader immediately empathizes with Crow, a boy sequestered by his mom for being different from other kids. You’ll find yourself rooting for him to have friends and a life – any kind of life! – despite his ‘dead’ appearance.
Along the way, he befriends his next door neighbor, Melody, and is forced to save a few of the neighborhood bullies from an evil curse. He learns he’s not so different from other kids his age, and his differences have made him considerably kinder than ‘normal’ kids, leading him to appreciate the life he’s led the previous few years. If you haven’t guessed, this story reaches past surface issues, as it explores friendship, loyalty, and selflessness.
A fun and encouraging story, I would recommend this to any middle grade student who enjoys books about magic and adventure!
Happy reading, friends!