Friday, April 9, 2010

Review: The Less-Dead by April Lurie

Found via: Publisher's Weekly 1/11

Wow. This book has some heavy stuff - religious bigotry and an apparent serial killer on the loose, targeting some of the most vulnerable kids in Austin, Texas.

Noah Nordstrom has grown up as the son of the Bible Answer Guy, a local evangelical Christian radio personality. Noah has summarily rejected all of his father's beliefs, prefering to almost single-mindedly pursue his dream of breaking into the Austin music scene with his buddy, Carson. While taking a break from playing on the streets in Austin, Noah befriends Will, another student at his school for troubled kids who shares Noah's interest in music and poetry. Will and Noah quickly become friends, before it turns awkward when Noah realizes that not only is Will gay, but he has a crush on the adamantly-straight Noah.

Before Noah can resolve the awkwardness lingering between them, Will is brutally murdered, the third victim of a serial killer who has been targeting gay kids in the foster care system. Only, the killer was supposed to be in jail before Will was murdered - either there's a copy cat on the loose, or they locked up the wrong guy.
At the crime scene, Noah pocketed Will's poetry journal, and is shocked to discover the murderer has apparently left cryptic clues about his next victim. Unsure of who to talk to, or who he can even trust, Noah sets out to investigate on his own. The killer is clearly targeting those who are unimportant, and in some ways are considered "less-dead" than if someone like Noah turned up murdered; Noah is intent on proving that Will's life mattered, and thus his death did, too.

Ugh, like I said, heavy stuff here. But Lurie handles it well for the most part. Occasionally the various characters can start sounding a little preachy (though ironically, I didn't catch the Bible Answer Guy ever sounding that way. Mostly it happened with the kids), or the dialogue just felt stilted. Certainly not enough to dampen my enjoyment.

Lurie includes an extensive author's note at the end of the book, thoroughly debunking the usual Biblical claims against homosexuality. I highly doubt her explanations are going to pursuade anyone who truly believes the Bible is an infallible divine document, but it could be a lot of help to someone who is struggling with their sexuality and their faith.

There's some great supporting characters here. Carson, Noah's friend who's obsessed with girl's and pissing off his super-atheistic father, is a great supporter of Noah who undergoes his own character arc on the sidelines. After Will's death, Noah also begins hanging out with two of Will's homeless friends, Quindlan and Doomsday - a street preacher who holds his faith very dear. There's also the mysterious Hawk, another student at the school who was a friend of Will's and seems to want to help Noah, but Noah isn't sure if he's actually trust worthy.

I highly recommend this one. It's a great story of acceptance and redemption, as well as a bit of a mystery as Noah tries to use the flimsy clues he has to track down the killer before he can strike again.

GLBT Challenge
This title not only falls under the GLBT Challenge banner, but also is part of April's mini-challenge, to read a YA novel.
Related Posts with Thumbnails