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Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
The Plot: Sam is your typical slacker — college drop out, working at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills for his tiny apartment, hanging out with his friends. Until the day he accidentally breaks the headlight on a Mercedes while playing potato hockey with his best friends, Ramon and Brooke. The car owner goes from angry at the damage to downright scary as he asks Sam who gave him permission to live in Seattle and why he hasn’t consulted the Council.
With that chance encounter, Sam starts finding out secrets — secrets he didn’t know about, secrets he didn’t want to know about. Sam thought Seattle and his world was normal. Turns out, it’s full of supernatural beings including necromancers. Turns out, Sam is one of those beings — he’s a necromancer. As in talking to and raising the dead.
The Good: As I explained in The Freak Observer, the Morris Shortlist books should be on your must-read list just because. If you need more than the equivalent of my saying “because I told you so,” for Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, know this: as the title indicates, it’s funny! Sam and his friends may be slackers, but they know how to quip. This book gives you supernatural, horror, humor, and even a touch of romance. It’s also done with wonderful style: Sam tells his story in first person, and other parts of the story are told in third person subjective, so you get inside their heads, their thoughts, their memories and background but without the same type of immediacy and closeness that Sam’s story gives you. The structure is also fabulous, with McBride quickly creating Sam’s “normal” world and then just as quickly introducing the supernatural, and just as the reader is processing the “new” of it all it switches to a more knowledgeable point of view. This provides the reader with more context and background than Sam has, and offers great world-building.
What else? This book has crossover appeal for your adult readers of supernatural and horror.
Alright, so for all of you who don’t like spoilers, that should be enough to get you going. Go, read, and then return, because there will be spoilers. Oh, and there is an excerpt at the publisher’s website.
As explained above, Sam finds out there is more to his world — witches, necromancers, werewolves, fey, vampires, well, you get the picture.
What fascinates me (and makes me angrier than Sam, but that’s OK) is it turns out that his mother has known this, known many things all along, and kept it from Sam. It’s actually a classic parent move — withhold information to protect a child from being hurt, yet by never telling the child more damage happens. Here, long story short, Sam’s mother was aware of his otherness. I KNOW. And, honestly, I’m happy that Sam is shown as so close to his mother to forgive her but his not knowing means that when the big bad showed up? Sam was unprepared. I could deal with that. But then the big bad killed one of Sam’s good friends, and while Sam doesn’t blame his mother for that, I DO. Because I’m that type of reader. What this means from the book point of view is that McBride has created such engaging, flawed characters that I am getting mad at people who aren’t real. And getting mad for the best possible reason — because the characters are real and I have invested in all of them, including Sam, his mother, and his dead friend.
The secret leads to another strength of Necromancer. It’s all tied together. Sam’s floating, feeling disconnected, being, well, a slacker isn’t just because, well, he’s a slacker. As he realizes late in the book, if such an important part of himself was hidden, denied, unknown, no wonder he always felt as if he didn’t belong! So note that while this book is a funny as hell horror story, it is also classic coming of age — discovering oneself and accepting responsibility, with an emphasis on needing to understand and accept oneself fully in order to have a whole, integrated life. That the story comes with a talking head and a hot naked half-fey half-were hound girl in a cage is just extra goodness.
Finally, I love that Necromancer stands alone. Much as I love series, I also love not having to wait for a second (third, fourth, fifth…) book to find out what happens and to wrap up the story. That said, McBride has created such an interesting world that there could easily be other stories set in it, including stories about Sam as he learns more about his abilities. And, as Sam himself says near the end, “I froze. No corpse? Not good. No corpse meant he could still be around. Anyone who has ever watched a soap opera or a slasher flick knows that.” Thank you, Lish McBride, for that, because I am so tired of people in books and films and TV who don’t know that!
A Favorite Book Read in 2010 because: humor, supernatural,and horror, all while balancing humor and a dead-serious plot.
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is email@example.com.
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