THE BOY WHO COULDN'T DIE

William Sleator, Author . Abrams/Amulet $16.95 (174p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4824-2

Sleator (House of Stairs ) journeys to the voodoo-zombie lore of the Caribbean for his latest thriller, about a boy whose fear of death prompts him to give up his mortal soul. Narrator Ken has just buried his best friend who was killed in a plane crash, and the experience has left him obsessed with death. The child of rich New Yorkers, Ken visits a voodoo priestess who offers to remove his soul and put it somewhere safe, making him invulnerable. He pays the $50 fee, the spell works, and Ken finds that not only can he incite a beating from the school bullies (their punches do no damage to him but practically break their fists), he can sustain a shark attack and come out unscathed. But hideous nightmares soon plague him, dreams in which he kills people he does not know, and he learns that the murders are actually happening, that his wayward soul is being used as an astral assassin by the bokor (a voodoo priest who practices black magic). Initially, Ken is completely unlikable, but he quickly learns his lesson, and by mid-point he has evolved into an interesting, conflicted hero. His dreams offer clues as to his soul's whereabouts, and he goes in search of it. A few gaps in logic (how can he have feelings for Sabine—the one who explains to him about the voodoo practices—if he is soulless?) do not diminish an overall sophisticated horror story told at a brisk, addictive pace. Ages 12-17. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/09/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 184 pages - 978-0-8109-8790-6
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