Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Monday, June 25, 2012

Plot Summary:
After losing his best friend in a plane crash, Ken is terrified of death. Not only does he want to evade death, but he wants to live forever. After researching psychics, and other spiritual advisers, he finds an ad from a Cheri Buttercup in Queens, New York. After traveling quite a distance by train and bus, he manages to cheat death after an almost accident with a car on the way to Cheri. When he gets there, he is beyond disappointed with what he sees. In her ad, Cheri guarantees that she can hide Ken's soul so he won't be vulnerable to death. Although Ken is skeptical, he agrees to her instructions that involve powder and paste. After surviving the ritual, Ken feels like a load has been lifted from his shoulders and that the pain of his best friend's death has dissipated. When Ken musters up the courage to ask the hottest girl in the school, and angering the jock who has claimed her as his own, Ken is testing his new invulnerability by getting beaten up. However, no matter how many punches or kicks the bullies make, Ken can't feel a thing. After realizing that he is practically invincible, he tricks his parents in to taking a vacation in the Caribbean where he will swim in shark infested waters. When he meets Sabine, not only does he fall for her, but he learns the truth about his invulnerability and goes on a journey to save his soul. The ending is definitely unexpected.

Critical Evaluation:
Honestly, we have to give William Sleator some serious cool points for writing this original zombie tale. Some readers my be familiar with voodoo, but those who do not know about this art will get a slap upside the head. Although Voodoo tends to have a negative connotation to its practices, Sleator outlines the culture and the history of the people who practice. I will confess that Voodoo does tend to creep me out, but, from what Sabine tells us, it's not meant to be evil. With any religious practice, there is always going to be a good side and a bad side. Unfortunately for Ken, he made a deal with the dark side and he has no control, whatsoever over his mind and body. The irony of this story is that Ken wants nothing but control, but, now that he is a zombie under the control of a black magic user, he gave that up. The real issue at hand, in this story, is that we cannot escape because whether we like it or not, it will find us. For Ken, death found him and now controls his mind, will, and soul. Ken's character is very stereotypical rich kid who gets what he wants, but, in the end, he falls prey to his own ambitions that leaves him soulless and unsatisfied. Although this book is tiny, and quick to read, it packs a lot of serious consequences, especially when we deal with things that are beyond our knowledge. Call me a pessimist, but Ken really got what he deserved, but, as he develops his relationship with Sabine, he almost starts to look more like a human than a zombie. This story is seriously twisted and complicated, which makes it a great read for all of those who love a zombie love story.

Information about the Author:
According to the book jacket of The Boy Who Couldn't Die:
For more than thirty years, William Sleator has thrilled readers with his inventive books, which blend real science with stories that explore our darkest fears. His House of Stairs was a groundbreaking books for young adults, names on the best novels of the twentieth century by Young Adult Library Services Association. Critics call his writing "cleaver and engrossing...and just plain fun" (Booklist) and "gleefully icky" (Publisher's Weekly). Mr. Sleator divide[d] his time between homes in Boston, Massachusetts, and rural Thailand.
William Sleator passed away on August 3, 2011 at his home in Bua Chet, Thailand. The New York Times published the following quote:
Moody, psychologically probing and sometimes terrifying, Mr. Sleator’s work chronicled young people’s passage through all manner of dystopias. It was a fitting juxtaposition of age group and subject matter, for what, after all, is more dystopian than adolescence? In confronting the grotesque, the menacing and the outright evil, Mr. Sleator’s protagonists simultaneously confront their own identities and their relationship to their families, especially to brothers and sisters.
Teen Zombie Lit, Teen Horror

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Boy Who Couldn't Die:
Awards & Recognition:
  •  Starred review ALA Recommended Reluctant YA's (2/15/2005)

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I enjoyed a lot this book but the final was so...God I needed more ;)

  2. Right?! Just finished this tonight and I was like really?? That's how it's going to end?


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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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