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Review: Dead Boy by Laurel Gale

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dead Boy
Laurel Gale

Genre: MG FantasyZombies
Paperback: 256 Pages
Publication: September 29, 2015
by Crown Books for Young Readers

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.


Take humor, zombies without the terror elements that permeate post-apocalyptic fiction, overprotective parenting, positive life lessons, and young friendship. Throw them into the pot, and you'll come out with a smile on your face and in your heart.

It's rare to find a middle-grade story -- or any story for that matter -- that is both entertaining and enlightening. I was delighted to find both in Dead Boy. I mean it when I say that it captivated me from beginning to end. I picked this one up in the middle of a reading slump (and general life slump - starting life as a high school English teacher has been a fight for survival). I could not tear myself away from my book. If any chore called, I came with book in hand.

Laurel Gale's explanation for how Crow got his condition is fantastic. I like how she weaves in themes of humans greed, what we do for the people we love, and how we need to be careful for what we wish for. It can come true in unexpected ways. As the story starts with the aftermath and Crow's coming-of-age awakening and pursuit of the truth, we are also presented with the question of what to do when we learn the truth and whether revenge is the answer. (Given that this is a middle-grade novel, I think we know what the answer is.)

Plot aside, the characters were a blast. Middle-grade books generally have stereotyped characters, including adults that can't do anything and need the kids to save the day. I admit that I was a little irked by some of the stereotypes, but these weren't enough to take away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. I'm always happy to see a protagonist that uses his or her brain. In particular, I like how Crow notes the specific details of his conditions and how he doesn't recklessly charge into a situation. I also liked seeing the friendship that blossoms between Crow and his new next door neighbor and the lengths that they're willing to go for each other and to do right by others.

Dead Boy is a funny, poignant, and heartwarming story about friendship and self discovery. I would recommend this to upper-elementary and middle-grade readers.

It's been a while since I read Dead Boy, so please forgive the brevity of my review. Starting a new job is a challenge in itself. Starting a new job as a high-school English teacher straight out of college is another.

A copy was provided by Random House for review

Rating: 4 stars

  • N/A

    • Middle-grade appropriate

    6 comments on "Review: Dead Boy by Laurel Gale"
    1. Thanks for sharing! I think my cousin would love this more than me.

    2. This sounds good and you are so right about the stereotypical characters.

      1. It's pretty good despite the stereotypical characters. I do wish some of the side characters were more fleshed out though.

    3. Sounds interesting. I'm not generally drawn to zombie stories, but I may have to give this one a chance.

      1. I hope you enjoy this one. If you do pick it up, let me know what you think :)


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