I really like this novel. I especially love that the main character is male, as more often than not, lead roles in YA literature are female (why is that?). I’ve been looking for something along these lines to promote reading among my male student for a while, and thankfully, I’ve now found it. With a main character that can raise corpses, how can you go wrong?
It is obvious that Blodgett spent a lot of time writing Death Whispers, perfecting the scientific and technological aspects of this futuristic dystopian novel. I was reminded of one of my favorite TV shows, Heroes, as I read. While many young adults will come into their special power during puberty, not all will choose to use their powers for good. And, with many new powers coming to light each year, the government, of course, is going to be on the lookout for any powers that may be politically important. One main difference, though, is that all young adults know that they may manifest these powers, and they are, therefore, subjected to a mandatory AP test to determine their placements in high school—which I think is a really ingenious idea that Blodgett incorporated into the novel, as it creates suspense in the terms that “big brother is watching you.”
As the synopsis states, Caleb has a very rare talent, as do a few of his friends, and it was really fun to follow the characters as they discover their different abilities and learn to control and hide them, especially as the ever looming government could easily swoop in at any moment. What I really love about these powers, especially Caleb’s, is that Blodgett doesn’t sugarcoat them. For instance, the corpses don’t come back as they were in life, but rather in their various stages of decompose, including the smell. It was really interesting to read about this, and Blodgett writes in such a way that the reader can easily visualize it (though thankfully not smell it!).
This novel takes place over a few months, and another aspect I really enjoyed was that I was able to keep pace with the timeframe. Keeping the reader on point with elapsed time can be very difficult for writers, and I’ve read many books in which the events all seem to happen within a day, and no timeline is ever provided for the reader, causing confusion. Blodgett, however, easily guides the reader through the story without having to state the time and, because of this, the love story portion of the novel becomes feasible, as it obviously doesn’t happen “overnight.”
The dialogue in the story, as well as the action, was also very well done. Caleb and his friends banter back and forth much as my students do every day in the classroom, and I catch them doing very strange things in class as well, such as sticking things in their nose and ears… Blodgett captures the true essence of adolescents in her story, making her novel that much more enjoyable. As the story unfolds, events seamlessly build off each other, capturing the reader’s attention until the very end.
I know that my favorite character should be one of the main ones, but actually, my favorite characters is Ali, Caleb’s mother. Why? As I’m an English teacher and older adult, I find we connect. She has a strong love for her son and also a strong love for English. She is constantly correcting Caleb’s language and, as exasperating as that can be to others, I love it! I do it all the time too; I see myself in her, and I see my students in the young adult characters, solidifying Blodgett’s capability of creating very real characters that we can all connect with in some manner.
Something else I absolutely adore about this novel is the Caleb’s relationship with his parents. Caleb goes to his parents, first and foremost, when he realizes he’s in trouble. Most YA novels deal with characters that feel they need to hide everything from the adults in their life, and I loved that this was different. I’ve read many YA novels in which adults are excluded or deemed untrustworthy, and it was refreshing to finally read a YA novel in which an adolescent trusts his parents. Caleb goes to his parents on many occasions, and though they can’t always help him, the moral support that is there is awesome, and it portrays parents in a positive light, whereas, more often than not, YA literature portrays adults negatively. I like this positive reinforcement because that’s an aspect that teens need in their lives—adults who listen and care—yet Blodgett doesn’t paint all the adults in her novel as such, in order to keep with the reality of the world. Not all the adults (or other teenagers, for that matter) in the novel can be trusted, and Caleb and his friends aren’t obtuse. They see the warning signs and give their trust sparingly—they have a great sense of “street smarts,” as my parents would put it, and I enjoyed that very much.
Of course, the technological aspect of this novel was amazing. As it takes place in the future, technology must be vastly different, and Blodgett does not disappoint! She has taken our current technology and morphed it, creating “pulse” technology in which cell phones read our thoughts and send them virally. Hence, texting and calling are obsolete. I loved reading about this, and how the characters used it, and I would live to see “pulse” technology actually come to fruition someday—though that could be a nightmare to us teachers in the classroom…
Overall, this novel was great, and I highly suggest adolescents and adults read it alike. You will not be disappointed! Four stars!
(review of free book)