A series opener about a middle school monster hunter.
Max Helsing, of the Van Helsing family, has been raised in the monster-hunting life. Although Max has no problem helping malicious beasts to their eternal rests, he prefers to befriend those creatures that aren’t interested in hurting anyone. Suddenly, on this, his 13th birthday, docile supernatural creatures (and even his own hellhound puppy) are out for his blood. Luckily he has help from his diverse band of friends: his African-American mentor, Latina best friend, and Asian-American neighbor. It turns out a newly resurrected warlock has a grudge against Max’s family—and Max in particular. And if the warlock wins, humankind loses. Chapters usually end either on cliffhangers or with Max’s witty quips, and the narrative is punctuated by annotated pages from a monster reference guide. There are plenty of action sequences—some may go on a touch long—and the best moments involve unorthodox fighting techniques. The gruesome descriptions are limited to the monsters; horrific injuries are mentioned without explicit details. Max’s moral compass, confidence, and knack for getting into awkward situations make him eminently likable. Jobling ably pens a genuinely funny book without allowing the humor to overshadow the horror. While the narration and dialogue occasionally veer into camp, it suits the classic monster-movie vibe. The ending teases a more dangerous foe for the next installment.
A delightful bit of ghoulish escapism. (Horror. 9-13)