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Dead Boy    by Laurel Gale order for
Dead Boy
by Laurel Gale
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I have to admit Laurel Gale's Dead Boy is an odd one. It seems at first like a zombie tale, but then it quickly becomes a dark fantasy. At its heart, though, it is a tale of friendship.

Crow Darlingson has been stuck in his home for two years because no one wants to befriend a rotting, stinking dead boy. That is until Melody Plympton moves next door. Melody, a sixth-grader like Crow would be if he were still alive, has no problem with his current state. Melody knows there is magic about, although no one will believe her.

Melody convinces Crow to sneak out one night, and that is when they first discover the Meera, a strange shape-shifting monster than can, according to Crow's dad, grant wishes. In fact, the Meera is responsible for Crow being a living corpse. Despite harsh punishment for their night-time adventure, Crow and Melody are determined to find the Meera again so that it can grant their wish. Along the way, they encounter middle-school bullies and the Meera's challenging tests, but it is difficult to say which is the harder obstacle for these two outcasts.

As a story about friendship and overcoming bullies, Dead Boy is a great middle grade read and Gale shows prowess at writing for that age group. It is the fantasy elements that make it fall a little short. Laurel Gale creates an interesting fantastical creature in the Meera, but the execution - which feels like it wants to be along the lines of E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, or Suzanne Selfors - just falls short of that special whimsy. Dead Boy is still a fun read for middle graders, but older readers will not get the same sense of magic.

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