I was going to start this post in the same way I start many posts. I tend to tell you what I don’t like about a genre and then tell you about an exception. And just maybe I’ve been wrong about what I really like. Maybe what I like isn’t a particular genre, I really just like a well-written book and a good plot.
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was on last year’s William C. Morris Debut YA Award shortlist. I finally got around to reading it recently. I am tired of supernatural books being all the rage, and this advertises its supernaturality right in the title. It seems like every other book coming out this year is supernatural fiction. On my nightstand right now I have a historical fiction title concerning magic, a book about werewolves and an adult title about vampires…and I’m not actively seeking out supernatural fiction! So it has to be pretty special for me to really feel like it’s worth bringing to your attention.
Sam begins this book working in a fast food restaurant. He has friends, but he’s always felt different than everyone else. Sam (whose real name is Samhain) has dropped out of college and has given up trying to find his “thing” in life. But then an ill-fated game of potato hockey in the parking lot brings a very creepy man into the restaurant. The man starts accusing Sam of being and doing things Sam doesn’t understand. Is it coincidence that the pouch of herbs Sam’s mother gave him, that he always wears around his neck, has broken that night?
One of my teen librarian friends says that Sam is one of the hottest teen male characters this year, and maybe that will get some of you to pick up the book. It’s set in Seattle (where the author is from) and maybe that will get some of you to read it too. Here’s what I think makes this book unputdownable…everything. Sam is a great character. Although he is a slacker, and can’t seem to find his groove in life, Sam is witty and clever. He has a group of friends who are willing to just let him be himself – they are just along for the ride. He has already dropped out of college, making him older than the normal teen hero, but he does have the typical teen problems. He is trying to find himself, and nothing has ever seemed right. Sam is human and relatable, even though he can commune with the dead. A creepy situation, but not a creepy guy.
I dare you not to hum along to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” while you read this. That’s not the only song title or lyric that McBride uses in a clever way in this novel. All of the chapter titles are from songs as well. They fit each chapter’s contents perfectly – they are witty and smart. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to come up with the perfect matches.
One of the other things that makes this novel stand out is its fresh take on the supernatural. As the book goes on, many of the themes emerge that are in other supernatural books – uncovering the main character’s latent power, the battle between good and evil. But McBride’s talent is in making Sam’s journey seem fresh and unlike what we have read before. Sure, there is a Council, made up of representatives from several families – werewolves, the fey, necromancers, witches. But it’s the characters within these families that make this novel interesting. All of these characters are slightly quirky, but are strong, too. They are willing to fight for what they love. Sam’s friends fight to save him from a powerful necromancer because he is important to them – which says something about all of them.
And really, there is (among other hilarious/gross touches) a severed talking head and a zombie panda in this book. It’s got the gore and death and action you would expect from a supernatural book. It is a real winner, so pick it up today, especially if you love the supernatural. I have to return it, though, to get “Tiny Dancer” out of my head.
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Lish McBride. Henry Holt, 2010.