Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Jack is an ordinary boy except that his father happens to be Death. Nadine is a perfectly normal girl except that her Mother is – oh well, that's a Secret and not to be carelessly revealed on the back cover of a book. The important thing is that together, these two incredibly average children discover the lemon-headed villain behind the destruction of the Magical Creature Reserve and piece together his plot to divide the Golden and Black Bloods. They may even save a few lives.
Jack Death reminds me of a morbid version of a Roald Dahl story. At first, the story is rooted in reality. Jack is bullied at school, an outcast who only has one friend. Then quickly, the book takes an abrupt turn with the appearance of boy eating trolls. This seems to be the norm in this universe as no one is phased. But Jack is left wondering how a Troll got loose. They and other monsters are supposed to be sequestered in a Magical Creatures preserve. Jack and his friend Nadine follow the clues and begin to see a conspiracy. But will the friends be able to stop a genocide from happening?
What I liked:Tone:
This book was written in a way that evoked the best qualities of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman. Time and again, it is the children who see a situation for what it really is. The adults live in denial, even when evil is happening right in front of them.
There is a strong allusion to Nazi Germany. The adults blindly follow the "authorities" because they want to feel safe. If one group is a scapegoat, so be it. The leaders deftly work most of the adults into blaming another group for their troubles. Once this group is singled out as the problem, no one feels bad that they may be exiled.
What I was mixed about:
While I personally liked the tone of the book, I question whether or not this is a book for middle grade kids. There is no shortage of gruesome deaths in this novel. I work with the target audience of 8 to 12 year old kids, and I think second through fourth grade students would have nightmares! They certainly wouldn't get the connection between what is happening in the book and the more serious themes the author is trying to convey.
What I didn't like:
The "death" part of Jack:
I thought the author, M.L. Windsor, could have put the fact that Jack's father was Death to better use. The only interesting trait of being Death's spawn was that Jack could see Grim Reapers just before they took souls away. But the book could have just as easily taken this fact about Jack away and the story would have been the same. I was hoping for Jack to have some super ability or an interaction with his dad.
Release Date: September 13th, 2016
Format: Digital ARC
Recommendation: For older middle-grade readers, this book will be thought provoking. With it's casual violence, I do not think it is appropriate for younger students.