New book: The Death Catchers, by Jennifer Anne Kogler ’03 (Walker & Company)
The author: An English major at Princeton, Kogler’s first young adult novel, Ruby Tuesday, a coming-of-age story, started as her senior thesis. Since then she’s written three more — including The Otherworldies and its recently published sequel, The Siren’s Cry — all fantasy fiction. “I love writing for teens because that is the age when I fell in love with reading and began to think seriously about writing,” says Kogler, who is attending Stanford Law School.
The plot: Everything went topsy-turvy for 14-year-old Lizzy Mortimer on Halloween: She opened up the newspaper and saw a story about her best friend Jodi’s death — but it hadn’t happened yet. Lizzy had seen her first “death-specter.” Confused at first, Lizzy soon realizes that she and her grandmother Bizzy are death catchers — and they have to stop fate when an unjust demise is planned. Their most important mission: saving King Arthur’s last descendant — and the world’s best hope for survival. This young adult novel is narrated by Lizzy and reads like a long letter to her English teacher.
From chapter one: “Before I learned my best friend was going to die, I never understood why writers went on and on about setting. It didn’t make sense to me when Mom would go hog wild if a book was set someplace exotic like Turkey or Malawi or Canada. The way I figured it, people were what moved a story forward, you know? I realized the time and place where events occurred were important, but whenever I read a book, I usually skimmed the background stuff because it made my eyes droop. You can do a lot of things when your eyes are drooping, but concentrating on a book is not one of them.”
Review: Booklist called the novel “a creative mix of Arthurian legend, romance, and fantasy. … Characters are richly developed, particularly Lizzy and her grandmother, and the plot’s pacing is pitch-perfect.”