cover image The Less-Dead

The Less-Dead

April Lurie. Delacorte, $16.99 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73675-6

In Austin, Tex., 16-year-old Noah “despises church and religion and phony youth pastors who think it’s their job to save your soul.” Noah’s acts of rebellion have gotten him sent to an “alternative school for juvenile delinquents,” where he meets Will, a gay, homeless kid with whom he connects through a shared interest in music and poetry. When several gay teenagers are strangled and found with crosses carved into them and Bible passages nearby, Noah blames evangelical Christianity for contributing to an atmosphere of hate. And after Will becomes the next victim, Noah investigates the murder to avenge him. In her compelling mystery, Lurie (The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine ) draws attention to the prejudice and hatred many gay teens face (the title is a reference to the idea that the deaths of youths like Will count less). While fundamentalism-fueled homophobia is central to the story, Lurie doesn’t dismiss or caricaturize Christianity either. Though the book’s politics can feel heavy-handed (an author’s note offers rebuttals to scriptural stances against homosexuality), readers should still find it suspenseful and emotional. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)