Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book Review: 'On the Day I Died' by Candace Fleming

✰✰✰½ Mike Kowalski is just your average high school teen with a midnight curfew. Glancing at his car's dashboard clock, he realizes that he is running late again. Ignoring his ringing cell phone, he steps on the gas. Suddenly his car's headlights spotlight a girl standing directly in his path. Slamming on the brakes, Mike narrowly misses her. That's when things begin to get strange. The pale girl is wet, cold, and needs a ride home. What is Mike to do? He can't just leave her there.

After dropping her off, Mike notices her brand new saddle shoes on the floor of his car. He returns to the girl's house only to be told by her mother that she died many years ago. If Mike wants to return the shoes, he'll have to go to White Cemetery, a place just for young people. When he arrives, the cemetery seems forgotten and abandoned, but soon he realizes he's not alone. One by one the ghosts emerge all around him. Mike is horrified to discover that he cannot leave until he hears their stories...their death stories. Before the night is through, Mike will have heard them all, but will he be allowed to leave or will he become one of them?

The Bottom Line: This collection of short ghost stories takes place in the Chicagoland area; some are even loosely based on well-known urban legends and lore. Since Fleming's characters span different decades from 1853 - 2012, each short story is like a time capsule. While Mike's character is used to bind the stories together, each ghost has a unique voice. Thus, the short stories could easily stand alone; you could even skip a story or two without missing beat.

Although some of these stories are more original than others, all are fun and creepy. This quick read is recommended for kids in middle school who enjoy horror, paranormal, historical, and even science fiction. The characters are almost evenly divided between male and female characters appealing to both boys and girls. And don't forget, short ghost stories are always a hit around Halloween. Also, for those interested in Chicago urban legends, the author includes a notes section.

Details: On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming. Hardcover published by Schwarz & Wade Books (an imprint of Random House) in 2012. 208 p. ISBN: 978-0-375-96781-8

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