Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Henry Holt: 352 pp., $16.99
Thank Stephenie Meyer or the casting director who made Taylor Lautner a household name. Werewolves are big in teen fiction, especially if they're brooding, sexy and hot-tempered. "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" is no exception. At least the debut young adult novel from Lish McBride adds wizards, some lesser-known creatures and comedy to the mix.
Take Samhain Corvus LaCroix — skateboarder, vegetarian, college dropout. He's also a fry cook at the fast-food restaurant Plumpy's and has no idea he's a necromancer until he plays a game of potato hockey in the parking lot and inadvertently plants a tuber into the tail-light of a stranger's Mercedes-Benz.
Sam isn't happy to be a fry cook. "Working here just proved that the only thing separating me from a monkey was pants," he quips in the book's opening chapter. He's even less happy to be roughed up then kidnapped by the Mercedes owner, who, unknown to him, is the most powerful necromancer in all of Seattle — a necromancer who forces Sam to train with him or be killed.
There's inherent humor in a teen who's leading an ordinary American life, suddenly discovering his world isn't what it seemed. Sam's mom is a witch, it turns out. His deadbeat dad? A necromancer. The girl with whom he finds himself caged? A "friendly but possessive nymphet" who happens to also be a werehound (half werewolf, half dog).
Similar to Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief" and "The Red Pyramid," "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" exploits these comic juxtapositions, having Sam react the way any slacker would when confronted by what he learns: with sarcasm and sass. His interactions with co-workers, friends and enemies are chock full of humorous one-liners that are, more often than not, wittily matched by whomever he's talking to.
McBride has a gift for colorful characters, such as Sam's next-door neighbor, Mrs. W, a witch. Still out on the town every night at the age of 70, she drives a cherry-red Mustang as if "she could die at any minute and needed to get five things done before that happens." She's perpetually delivering off-color humdingers, like the time she tells Sam he looks "filthier than a hot tub in a brothel" and suggests he "find a nice girl and do some not-so-nice things with her."
Then there's Ashley, a bossy 10-year-old harbinger capable of guiding souls between different planes of reality. Dressed in patent leather shoes and brandishing a BlackBerry, she offers to help Sam in exchange for waffles topped with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and real maple syrup.
Though the story line itself is just another twist on a tale we've all read before — that of a boy who suddenly discovers he has superpowers and has to figure out how to use them — McBride's humor and ear for dialogue carry the book. There's a Mad-magazine-meets-"Twilight" sensibility to "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" that will keep readers turning pages and laughing all the way.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times