Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride

Author: Lish McBride
Genre: YA Paranormal (Horror-Comedy)
Pages: 352 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Call number: Y McBride

Summary (from Goodreads): Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

My thoughts: This is a hysterical, scary, offbeat story about a slacker discovering his necromancer powers. It contains: a talking head, a (benign) zombie panda, a talking cat (who is actually a mini-dragon), homicidal lawn ornaments, sassy ghosts who love waffles, witches, weres, and an evil necromancer who makes his revenants do calisthenics just to prove a point. The book could have been a disaster, with too many quirky elements to succeed, but it has such heart that it works. It’s so good it was a finalist for the Morris Award in 2010.

I know this is terrible, but I often think of books in relation to television and movies. Probably because the only thing I do more than read is watch stuff. I think this is a mix of other witty but frightening and surprisingly touching horror-comedies, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Reaper, and Dead Like Me. I’m sure I could come up with more, but you get the point.

One minute Sam is deep-frying inappropriate things at Plumpy’s, the fast food joint where he works, and playing potato hockey with his co-workers and friends Ramon, Brooke, and Frank; the next, he’s being called out by a necromancer (Douglas, who Sam calls a “madman in pressed jeans”) and forced to deal with the fact that his mother has lied to him for years about his powers as a “death wrangler”.

Right from the outset, Sam was my kind of guy, when he wondered at how humankind spent thousands of years developing complex language systems only to create a cash register with pictures on it, “just in case the cashier didn’t finish second grade”. My feelings of love were cemented when he meets Douglas at the zoo to discuss necromancy, when Sam mentions that he never watches the news because “they just don’t make very good episodes of it anymore”. His deadpan, wise guy humor and pop culture references is what makes him so fun to read, but his underlying sweetness – his love for his friends and family – and his “why me?” plaintiveness is what makes him relatable. The other characters — Sam’s friends, his mother and sister, and a were-hybrid named Brid — are all equally developed and interesting.

The ending makes it clear that there will be (or at least, should be) sequels, which fills my heart with glee. This is a highly recommended book for lovers of paranormal thrillers and who are looking from something different from the standard formula.

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