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by Ellen Booraem
Dial Books for Young Readers
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Back Cover: Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, but she’s new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school. Even as Conor desperately attempts to hide her identity from the principal, he realizes there’s no way to avoid paying a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.
First Sentence: Death stalked the spider, pre-algebra book in hand.
Synopsis: Conor is afraid of most everything. Something innately inside Conor makes him afraid of many, many things. Then Ashling shows up at his window, in the middle of the night, after alarming the neighborhood with her keening. She ends up taking residence inside a cupboard in Conor’s bedroom, revealing herself as a banshee—brand new, first case—and she is there for someone in Conor’s family.
Conor knows about banshees. His grandfather is a self-appointed scholar in all things banshee and the underworld. When Conor breaks his vow of silence and tells Grumps about Ashling, Grumps volunteers to be the death, but Ashling says that is not possible. Meanwhile, Ashling follows Conor to school. She is interested in learning about the present day world. Her world ended with “an axe to the head.” After several days of watching from across the street, a teacher invites her to join Conor’s class. Conor is mortified to find his “cousin” questioning teachers about the facts she has memorized from Conor’s Trivial Pursuit™ game she devours to pass time.
Meanwhile, Conor frets over who Ashling is here to take to the underworld, and how he can stop the death from happening, despite Ashling’s insistence that a death must happen and must be from his family. Grumps is the oldest and wants to go, anxious to experience the underworld for himself. Ashling will not verify if he is the death, so Grumps insists on challenging the three birds. If he wins, he will control the death, making it his choice who Ashling keens. By now, Conor’s sister Glennie and his best friend Javier also know about Ashling and insist on being a part of this challenge. There is an immediate problem: Grumps is in a hospital ICU bed. The three kids devise a plan, using a few of Ashling’s abilities as a banshee, but will it work? If Grumps gets to challenge the three birds, will he win? Who is the death Ashling came to keen? Will Conor be able to stop Ashling from taking one of his family members to the other side? Oh, and the title? Javier reminds Conor to take his cell phone to the underground.
“Got your cell?”
“Yeah . . . . Don’t see what good it’ll do me.”
“I’ll text you if anything happens that you should know.”
“Text me? Javier, we’ll be in the afterlife.”
“You never know. Maybe they get a signal.”
Texting the Underworld is a unique story with utterly imaginative plotting and action. Conor is a great character as are Javier, Glennie, and Grumps. The family dynamics are genuine, especially that of Dad and Grumps, and Conor and Glennie. Close relationships of father and son, brother and sister, are often fraught with tension and secrets, which here drive the story forward. Why is Conor’s dad so angry every time Grumps—his father—mentions banshees?
Buried secrets are found even in the underworld, a dark place with humor, oddities, and fear to intrigue any lover of paranormal storytelling. I found the story difficult to put down and it stayed with me long after I had read the last word. I had not heard of a banshee, except maybe in passing, until now. I learned a few cultural things about Ireland and the underworld—if it indeed has culture—that I’d not know before reading Texting the Underground.
The writing is smooth and smart. Kids age 9 to 13 will love the overlapping layers, the innocence of Ashling, and Conor’s typical middle grade life—sans banshees. Texting the Underworld is inventive, imaginative, and interesting with the afterlife bearing in on the present. I have read nothing like this before. Ms. Booraem has elevated banshees to the top of paranormal protagonists, and when Texting the Underworld releases, middle grade novels will have a new contender for book of the year.
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Learn more about Ellen Booraem and Texting The Underworld by using these links:
Facebook: Ellen Booraem’s Books https://www.facebook.com/EllenBooraemBooks
Twitter: @EllenBooraem https://twitter.com/EllenBooraem
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/evbooraem
Released August 15, 2013
Ages: 10 +
© 2013 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Text: Copyright © 2013 by Ellen Booraem
Dial Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Penguin Group
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