cover image A Fate Totally Worse Than Death, a

A Fate Totally Worse Than Death, a

Paul Fleischman. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-627-9

The versatile Newbery Medalist sets off on a different-and wacky-tack with this spoof of young adult horror novels. Lavishly dosed with comic hyperbole, his plot is good for some chuckles-and many groans. Here goes: physically flawless Danielle, thoroughly vacuous Tiffany and their lumpy sidekick, Brook are all ""Huns,"" those privileged students at Cliffside High whose parents have struck it rich enough to reside in Hundred Palms Estates. The ruthless trio has already dispatched one outsider: the year before, Charity Chase (a non-Hun) cozied up to Drew (a hunky Hun on whom Danielle has designs), and sent her scurrying off a cliff... to her death. Now Helga, an ethereal exchange student from Norway, has the misfortune to catch Drew's eye. Meanwhile, the three vain girls are experiencing horrifying symptoms of accelerated physical aging. Is Helga the ghost of Charity, returned to avenge herself? What could explain the girls' deterioration? Fleischman's take-off is clever, but its humor is strictly one-note. Ages 14-17. (Oct.)