Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Another Reading Roundup

I've got five books on my pile to write up, and two of them have been waiting for two or three weeks. So I'm just going to put up a couple of quick impressions about a couple of them, just to clear the pile a bit.

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee
4Q 4P; Audience: M/J/S

I love booktalking Acceleration, and although it's a very different kind of book, Hate You is also a powerful read. So I've been waiting for a new McNamee book for years. Though this one didn't captivate me as much, it was still worth the wait. McNamee always tells a great story, and there's always more to it than just what's on the surface.

Ever since his mother died, Danny and his father have been moving from place to place, trying to escape their memories. In cold, desolate Harvest Cove, Danny winds up trying to escape from more than that. Deep in the most isolated reaches of Canada, this small Army outpost town holds a terror that most people don't even realize exists. Danny encounters it on a night that was already unsettling: he has just witnessed an arson/murder. His mind reeling and his nerves already taut as he walks home in the pitch dark, it takes him a little while to realize that he's being followed. At first it's just a feeling. Then he catches something (but what?) out of the corner of his eye. Maybe it's just a plastic bag blowing in the wind. Maybe it's just a dog. He tries to shrug it off. But then he hears the growl. It's a growl so deep it hurts his ears. And then he sees it. This is no plastic bag, no dog. But whatever it is, it's big. And it's fast. It is, in fact, a huge beast right out of legend, with teeth and claws eight inches long. Danny is sure he's a goner when he falls into a ditch and the beast catches up to him. But no - - the only mark he has to show for his meeting with the beast is a blue dot on the back of his hand. A fang mark? As the days go by, Danny realizes that no, the blue dot isn't the only mark the beast has left on him. His body temperature drops and he can always feel the beast watching and calling him. He can't sleep. The beast has invaded his dreams. He knows the beast will be the end of him. It's just a question of when.

Danny is not the only teen affected. One boy in their community has already succumbed to the call of the beast. Danny's friend Howie has also been bitten, and his symptoms are even worse than Danny's. Danny, Howie, Howie's psycho brother Pike (the aforementioned arsonist), and Danny's girlfriend Ash need to know what's going on. A little research reveals that dozens of local teens have disappeared over the years. Though common wisdom has it that they were runaways, the details point toward something else entirely, something that Danny and Howie know all too well. The beast has been luring teens to their death for thousands of years. What are the odds that Danny and Howie will break the cycle? 1000-1?

McNamee generally builds the tension well. Some readers may be irritated when the focus switches from Danny's present to Danny's memories of his mother and how her absence has affected his life. Others will recognize that these sections add to Danny's sense of isolation and that the emotional coldness he's been left with mirrors his physical coldness. Most readers will also appreciate the relationship between Danny and Ash, especially as it often adds a welcome note of humor that breaks the tension. In the beginning, much is made of Pike's mental stability or lack thereof, so I expected it to play a bigger role in the story and for things to play out a little differently as a result. Despite any quibbles I may have, I think Bonechiller will be popular, particularly with teenage boys. It's a book best read straight through, preferably with a warm blanket wrapped around you.

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