Once readers dig up this clever supernatural YA story, they likely won’t want to put it down.

AMERICAN GHOUL

Debut novelist Morton tells a gloriously macabre young-adult tale about the difficulties of being a teenage ghoul in the 1970s.

Howard and his family are ghouls. Scientifically, all that means is that their bodies don’t produce certain hormones and enzymes. But Howard’s father has been training him since age 11 in the practical side of their heritage: They need to dig up and eat freshly dead bodies to make up for their own bodily deficiencies. After Howard is orphaned by a murderous mob on his 17th birthday, he flees Georgia for New Jersey and searches out his grandmother—also a ghoul, because the condition is genetic. Granny disagreed with Howard’s parents on many things; for example, she considers “digging for food” low class. (She worked as a nurse who took her work home with her, so to speak.) If she and Howard are going to live under the same roof, Howard is going to have to adapt to a new way of life—including graduating from high school. As the fall semester begins, he starts his senior year at Pinebury High, home of some particularly sadistic bullies. Right away, the jocks forcibly seat Howard at what they call the “nerds and fags” table in the cafeteria. Here, Howard meets oddballs and outcasts who will become his friends, including a frustrated musician named Sebastian who turns Howard on to a new genre of music made for people on society’s fringe: punk rock. Morton successfully pairs the darker aspects of life in high school with the lighter aspects of cannibalism, including details that range from humorous, poignant reflections on monster movies to quirky details of grave robbing. Howard’s very human struggle to find acceptance explores whether being a monster is in fact a choice. The plot starts to decay three-quarters of the way through with a series of improbable events, but Morton satisfyingly finishes the story off before it goes bad. The ending will likely leave readers happy and delightfully disturbed.

Once readers dig up this clever supernatural YA story, they likely won’t want to put it down.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2012

ISBN: B00AFCTMCU

Page Count: 322

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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