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The Boy Who Couldn't Die    by William Sleator order for
Boy Who Couldn't Die
by William Sleator
Order:  USA  Can
Harry N. Abrams, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

William Sleator has been writing science fiction books for young adults for more than thirty years. I deliberately used the term science fiction as opposed to the more vernacular sci-fi because Sleator inserts real science into his stories. His latest novel, The Boy Who Couldn't Die, is no exception, even though its emphasis is horror rather than science fiction.

Ken Pritchard is a spoiled brat who determines not to die after attending the funeral of his best friend. In order to become invulnerable, he visits a psychic who performs an elaborate ritual, after which nothing can hurt Ken. To test his invulnerability, he vacations on a small Caribbean island and scuba dives where sharks have been known to attack. An island girl witnesses a shark swimming away injured after failing to bite off Ken's leg. From this girl, Ken learns that he has been turned into a zombie. Now it is up to Ken to recover his soul before it is used for evil.

Sleator incorporates plenty of science in the story. Many poisons are mentioned, particularly those used in voodoo practices to bring the dead back to life. Also, one incredibly graphic passage describes what happens to a scuba diver who surfaces too quickly and develops the bends. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it also has more depth than is to be found in many teen thrillers. It's not just about zombies but also about friendship, and the reader is drawn into Ken's emotional ups and downs throughout his entire ordeal.

I recommend The Boy Who Couldn't Die to any reader who is looking for a little more from horror stories. I am not saying the author should give up writing science fiction, but I hope this is not his only foray into the horror genre.

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