by Laurel Gale
Crow is dead... sort of. He died in fourth grade, but his parents somehow wished him back to life, and he's continued to grow, even though his flesh is rotting and infested with maggots. His parents are divorced, and his mother has kept him in the house ever since he started rotting so as not to attract attention. He is a star home-schooled middle school student, but misses school and having friends his own age.
When Melody moves in next door, Crow finds the friend he's been looking for in this awkward but self-confident new girl who is teased at school for her belief in aliens and magic. Together the two of them discover the secret of the Meera – a mysterious creature that granted Crow's parents' wish to bring him back to life, and might grant wishes for the children as well, if they are able to pass his series of dangerous challenges.
While Crow is initially portrayed as almost super-humanly kind and considerate, and the popular kids at school are stereotypically self-absorbed and shallow, the character of Melody rings true from the beginning with her flamboyant clothes and her insistence that there must be a supernatural explanation for her mother's disappearance (since accepting the idea that her mother just chose to abandon her is apparently too painful to consider).
The shape-shifting Meera and the series of alternating challenges that he poses set the scene for a perfect fantasy quest, with obstacles to overcome, and prisoners to set free before the children achieve the right to have their wishes come true.
But the story doesn't end there. Since what we wish for is not always what we want or need, the children make a second attempt to set things right and learn to see themselves and each other with more depth and compassion as part of the process towards achieving their ultimate goal.
Cover art and illustrations at the beginning of each chapter by Yoko Tanaka depict Crow, the Meera, magical creatures and the mysterious symbols that the children need to decipher in order to complete their quest. Middle school boys and girls will find Dead Boy to be a quick and entertaining read, with just the right amount of mystery and horror.
Like Crow, Laurel Gale resides in the Nevada desert. She lives with her husband and a band of furry monsters that might actually be ferrets, her favorite animal (even though they don't make an appearance in this story). Visit her website at laurelgale.com.