The Secrets of Love and Death

VAN LOWE, E. & . 270p. White Whisker Books. Jul. 2015. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780986326516.
Gr 9 Up—Set in the 1980s, this dark, disturbing read centers on Theo "Turtle" Dawson, an overweight 13-year-old who's neglected by his parents and bullied, and who is grieving the loss of his older brother. Lost in sadness and self-loathing, Turtle is saved, literally and figuratively, by new girl Rita. Then his brother A.D. returns from the dead with a dangerous request. The protagonist must kill the "Teddy Bear," a delusional, murderous pedophile who dresses in a bear costume as he targets young boys he believes he's saving from bad parenting. Peripheral characters are certainly distinct; however, they often seem too mature for middle schoolers. Turtle's development into a self-assured hero and his sweet relationship with Rita will have readers pulling for him. The Teddy Bear is far more terrifying than the supernatural plotline. The dialogue and overall content make this title more appropriate for an older readership. Time jumps and changes in point of view occasionally interrupt the narrative flow. Though the conclusion is action-packed and heart-pounding, readers may be left wondering about A.D.'s role in a local's demise and A.D.'s connection to the ghost of the Teddy Bear's penultimate victim, as well as why adults, savvy about the teens' plans for the Teddy Bear, didn't contact authorities?
VERDICT An additional purchase where horror is popular.

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