cover image Texting the Underworld

Texting the Underworld

Ellen Booraem. Dial, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3704-4

As Booraem did in Small Persons with Wings, she uses mythological creatures (in this case, banshees) to tell a story that packs an emotional wallop. Conor O’Neill is a smart but timid seventh-grader, afraid of spiders, sneaking out, and leaving his Southie neighborhood to go to Boston Latin School. When a banshee straight out of his Irish-born grandfather’s stories appears in Conor’s room, he’s terrified that someone he loves is going to die soon. The banshee, Ashling, is new at her job, and she doesn’t know who will die or when. Since her mortal life ended hundreds of years ago with an ax to the head, she’s curious about the present day, and she masquerades as a new student at Conor’s school (armed mainly with knowledge obtained from outdated Trivial Pursuit cards). Eventually Conor, his sister, and his friend Javier realize they’ll have to confront the possibility of death head-on. In an affecting, funny, and provocative story, Booraem balances the seriousness of a novel about death spirits and finding courage with Ashling’s comical interactions with the modern world. Ages 10–up. Agent: Kate Schafer Testerman, kt literary. (Aug.)