cover image One for Sorrow

One for Sorrow

Christopher Barzak, . . Bantam, $12 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-553-38436-9

Death forges a supernatural bond between two lonely teenage boys in Barzak's well-intentioned and morbid first novel. Fifteen-year-old Adam McCormick is haunted by the earthbound ghost of his murdered classmate, Jamie Marks. Boy and ghost are drawn to one another by their shared outsider status at school, with the ghost providing support (and a surprising homoerotic romance subplot) for Adam as he survives a disastrous relationship with the sexually predatory Gracie (the classmate who discovered Jamie's body), a scary encounter with the ghost of a murderess and a troubled home life with his older brother and constantly arguing parents. Adam and Jamie's ghost eventually run away and find shelter in an abandoned church, where Adam is tempted to join Jamie, and Jamie delays moving to the next level in the afterlife. Barzak admirably defies convention by not having the two boys search for Jamie's killer, but the replacement plot—one of a bizarre coming-of-age—doesn't always meld well with the narrative's fantastical elements (closets, called dead space, are portals between worlds; ghosts burn memories to keep warm). The macabre tone won't work for readers looking for another Lovely Bones , but the novel's approach to familiar material is refreshing. (Sept.)