The Boy Who Couldn't Die

The Boy Who Couldn't Die

4.2 34
by William Sleator

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The "brisk, addictive" thriller, now in paperback!

Sleator, a recognized master of sci-fi and horror and a favorite of reluctant readers, is a paperback powerhouse, with more than 600,000 copies of his novels sold in softcover. Here he gives fans a spin on the classic zombie story, following sixteen-year-old Ken as he bargains with a psychic to gain


The "brisk, addictive" thriller, now in paperback!

Sleator, a recognized master of sci-fi and horror and a favorite of reluctant readers, is a paperback powerhouse, with more than 600,000 copies of his novels sold in softcover. Here he gives fans a spin on the classic zombie story, following sixteen-year-old Ken as he bargains with a psychic to gain immortality, only to awaken one night with blood-spattered clothes and the realization that he's sold more than his soul.

Author Bio: For more than thirty years, William Sleator has thrilled readers with his inventive books. His House of Stairs was named one of the best novels of the twentieth century by the Young Adult Library Services Association. He divides his time between homes in Boston and rural Thailand.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Sleator (House of Stairs) journeys to the voodoo-zombie lore of the Caribbean for his latest thriller, about a boy whose fear of death prompts him to give up his mortal soul. Narrator Ken has just buried his best friend who was killed in a plane crash, and the experience has left him obsessed with death. The child of rich New Yorkers, Ken visits a voodoo priestess who offers to remove his soul and put it somewhere safe, making him invulnerable. He pays the $50 fee, the spell works, and Ken finds that not only can he incite a beating from the school bullies (their punches do no damage to him but practically break their fists), he can sustain a shark attack and come out unscathed. But hideous nightmares soon plague him, dreams in which he kills people he does not know, and he learns that the murders are actually happening, that his wayward soul is being used as an astral assassin by the bokor (a voodoo priest who practices black magic). Initially, Ken is completely unlikable, but he quickly learns his lesson, and by mid-point he has evolved into an interesting, conflicted hero. His dreams offer clues as to his soul's whereabouts, and he goes in search of it. A few gaps in logic (how can he have feelings for Sabine-the one who explains to him about the voodoo practices-if he is soulless?) do not diminish an overall sophisticated horror story told at a brisk, addictive pace. Ages 12-17. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Ken doesn't want to die. Ever. Ken is a teenager who gets everything he wants from his rich parents. But after his friend, Roger, dies in a plane crash, Ken realizes what he wants most of all is to never die. Cheri Buttercup advertises "Freedom from death," and she delivers. When Ken touches a hot pan, he is not burned. When he steals the girl-friend of a bully at school, the bully cannot beat him up. He is invincible. But he is not prepared for the dreams—of being buried alive, of digging up Roger's grave. Ken decides he's ready for the ultimate challenge: to face death. He goes scuba diving on a little island where sharks are known to attack, but Ken comes out unscathed. A new friend, Sabine, discovers his invincible nature. Sabine educates Ken about voodoo, zombies, and the evil magic that has surrounded him. They then fight against Buttercup's evil magic. This book is full of zombies, danger, murder, and creepy twists Sleator is famous for. Just when you think you've solved everything, there's a twist you didn't see coming. 2004, Amulet Books, 162 pp., Ages young adult.
—Holli Keel
Children's Literature
This latest offering will not disappoint fans of William Sleator's creepy psychological thrillers. Spooked by the plane crash death of his best friend Roger, sixteen-year-old Ken determines to find a way to never die. He finds a psychic in the phone book with the unlikely name of Cheri Buttercup who promises to grant his wish for only $50. But first, Ken must die so Cheri can remove his soul and hide it. Ken is thrilled by his good fortune as he appears immune from the school bully and a man-eating shark in the Caribbean. But things begin to unravel as he realizes he has become a zombie and must find his soul to become human again. Sleator includes enough authentic information about the poisonous nature of the puffer fish and the properties of zombie cucumbers to temper the wildly improbable plot. The reader may learn more details about scuba diving than absolutely necessary, but Sleator's descriptions of the coral reef and its colorful inhabitants lend verisimilitude to the narrative. Teen romance, a shark attack, zombies, and voodoo drums combined with Sleator's signature shocking ending make for a page-turning good read. 2004, Amulet Books/Harry N Abrams, Ages 11 to 14.
—Quinby Frank
When 16-year-old Ken's best friend is killed in a plane crash, Ken is so shaken that he decides he will do anything to become invulnerable. He answers an ad in the back of a psychic cult magazine that promises "Freedom from Death" and undergoes a weird ritual that really works. Bullies can't hurt him, heat can't burn him, and when he convinces his parents to go on a family vacation to the Caribbean to scuba dive, he discovers that even sharks can't bite him. But he also starts to have terrifyingly realistic dreams, about digging up graves and knifing strangers. When he confides in Sabine, a teenage diving instructor he meets in the Caribbean, she explains that he has become a zombie. He must reclaim his soul, she insists, and she travels with him to the Adirondack Mountains to undertake a dangerous dive under the ice of a lake to find his soul hidden in an underwater cave, guarded by the zombie of his best friend. This horror story is gripping and fast moving, and deliciously creepy in the style of House of Stairs and Sleator's other acclaimed SF YA novels. The title and the skull on the cover are sure to attract readers, and the gruesome information about zombies will captivate them. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Harry N. Abrams / Amulet Books, 176p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
After sixteen-year-old Ken's best friend, Roger, is killed in a plane crash, he is devastated by both his loss and his burgeoning sense of mortality. To allay his fears, this spoiled son of wealthy New York parents rashly seeks immortality from the enigmatic Cheri Buttercup. Following her bizarre ritual, he decides to field test his new condition by arranging a family trip to a Caribbean island known for scuba diving-and shark-infested waters. While diving, he lures a shark whose savage bite inflicts no harm, and Sabine, an island native, witnesses the encounter. They immediately bond, and she explains that his immortality resulted from Buttercup's voodoo ritual, transforming Ken into a zombie. His soul is now being used for evil through his new nightmares, which also provide clues to his soul's location. He and Sabine later travel to upstate New York in a perilous and frightening battle for Ken's soul. This novel would be stronger if Ken were savvier; his unqualified trust of Sabine, a mysterious character whom many readers will doubt, and blind adherence to her instructions and explanations regarding his soul's reclamation makes him sometimes appear clueless. Like most teens, Ken is occasionally unlikeable, defining females harshly by physical appearance and equating wealth with superiority. Nevertheless this tale is action-packed, full of enough ghoulish surprises, twists, and surreal situations to hook both younger suspense and science fiction fans. VOYA Codes 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Amulet Books/Harry N. Abrams, 176p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Lisa A.Hazlett
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-After his best friend dies in a plane crash, 16-year-old Ken Pritchard keeps thinking of a folktale about a monster that hid his soul, ensuring eternal life. Determined to avoid death himself, Ken finds a woman who removes his soul from his body. At first he is pleased; as in the folktale, he gains physical invulnerability, along with a respite from his misery. But, as readers will suspect from the many creepy details Ken willfully ignores, the rest of the folktale comes true as well. The woman is a zombie master, and he has become a modern-day monster partially under her control. Ken's increasingly desperate first-person narration, as he struggles to find his hidden soul and escape the zombie master's ever more brutal commands, makes for a gripping read. Particularly well rendered are the scuba-diving scenes in the shark-infested waters of the Caribbean and under the thick ice on a wintry Adirondack lake. Sleator spends little time on the spiritual or emotional consequences of Ken's transformation, and characterization is secondary to plot development, but teenaged horror fans won't mind. From the photo of a just-unearthed skull on its cover to the plot twist in its final pages, this fast-paced, suspenseful book will appeal to reluctant and avid readers alike.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When Ken loses his best friend to a plane crash, he discovers zombie horror-and first love. Devastated by Roger's death, Ken seeks out trashy Cheri Buttercup, who promises to remove his soul in order to make him immortal. Ken tries to damage himself without effect after his successful soulectomy, but he feels oddly hollow even when beating the school bully. What he needs, Ken thinks, is some real danger, like a scuba-diving vacation in shark-infested waters. But the Caribbean exposes him to more than sharks. Beautiful scuba instructor Sabine teaches Ken about voodoo and zombies, and he realizes Cheri Buttercup's trickery: Ken is a zombie, and the frightening dreams he's been having are visions of his soul as it toils in murderous servitude. With Sabine's help, Ken must break his zombie curse. Frightening and (perhaps too) fast-paced, this has clever tributes to Lovecraft, but standard zombie fare is not up to Sleator's usual originality. Good and creepy, but should be better. (Fiction. 11-15)

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Boy Who Couldn't Die 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a great book and a really moderately easy read. this entire book was such an easy read that it only took a day and a half. this was also helped by the fact that william sleator is a great sci-fi writer. one can only imagine what pain and suffering ken pritchard went through with all the death around him. The way sleator used his great figurative language and cunning story plot turned into a great story.Quite possibly one of the best books i've ever read, william sleator did a great job on this book. when i read the first paragraph of this book, i knew it was going to be amazing. i have read many of william sleator's books, and would recommend them to all who enjoyed this book.out of all of his books, i think sleator's best was this one.i was so surprised when i found this in my teachers bookshelf, and picked it up on silent reading day. this was an unforgettable book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! At some parts it is a bit rushed, and the ending is a bit iffy, but Sleator does an awesome job in the composition of the rest of the book. I only really read certain types of books, and I really enjoyed this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book The Boy Who Couldn't Die by William Sleator. It's a suspense filled novel about a boy named Ken, who after his best friend dies, decides he will never die. He found this woman who claimed she could make him invulnerable, and it worked. Ken touched a four hundred and fifty degree pan of cannelloni and didn't feel a thing. When Ken's annual spring break trip is comming up, he wanted to put his body to a real test. He saw a St. Calao island with a shark warning and told his parents it would be a great place to go. While he was there he met a girl named Sabine who knows a lot about vudo and magic. After she sees him get bit by a shark, she told him that he had to get his soul back from the lady that took it from him. I loved this book and you should definatley read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book I read was called The Boy Who Wouldn't Die by William Sleator. This book was a suspense novel that was focused around magic so it could be considered science fiction as well. After Ken¿s friend Roger was killed Ken decided he never wanted to die. Ken goes to a woman named Cherri Buttercup who makes him invulnerable by taking his soul and hiding somewhere safe. Ken then wants to test it this and see if it really works. He touches a hot frying pan and it doesn¿t burn him so he decides to take it to the extreme. He gets attacked in St. Calao by a shark. He meets a scuba instructor named Sabine and he falls in love with her. She sees him get attacked and finds out why it didn¿t bite his leg off. She tells him he needs to get his soul back. He finds out where it was hidden by listening to his dreams. Read to find out what happens next. This book was told in the first person. The narrator, a 16-year-old boy, did a very good job in telling the story. He discovered little clues to help solve his dilemma and just in the nick of time. He kept me interested in wanting to find out what would happen next. The story couldn't have been told in any other point of view that would be as good as in first person. Ken is the protagonist in this story. He is just an average person with no special abilities except that he can¿t die. I find more out about him through his actions. Also, I learn through his dialogue and interaction with others. He is not a very popular kid but is rich and gets what he wants. The writer uses good diction in order to create a vivid depiction in your mind. He also makes you think and gives you clues about a character. There isn¿t much foreshadowing but he does such a great job keeping your eyes glued to the page that you don¿t even notice it. I¿d definitely give this book two thumbs up. It was a great book and the best one I¿ve read so far this year. It kept my eyes on the page. I just kept reading and before I knew it, the book was almost over. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a fun book and can see past some events in the story that might be improbable. Review written by Paul Anderson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author, William Sleator, has more than thirty years of experience with being an author. Young Ken's best friend, Roger, dies in a plane crash. Ken knows what he and Roger have in common; they can both die. Ken decides to seek help from an old woman who claims to possess the ability to make her customers invulnerable to pain and death. What Ken didn't realize is usually when something to good to be true, it's often false. Unable to control his dreams he seeks to get his soul back with a little help. Some phrases in the book support the different genres such as the horror: "This is awful! This is terrible! You've got to get your soul back right away. NOW! " Not all of it is just horror some is romantic: 'How could I ever had thought she wasn't beautiful?' This book is fantastic for any supernatural lovers!If you like any of those genres this book is for you.
Lulu4me More than 1 year ago
The concept was very good but execution was off for me. I wanted to be scared but no such luck with this book. The events in this book might've frightened me if they were written differently. The intense scenes seemed pretty cheesy. The book was a bit repetitive with the whole, "Sabine is risking her life for me. She must really love me," thing. And the romance was also very cheesy. Some parts were very dumb and the twist with Sabine kinda crushed the whole cheesy romance. I didn't like this book. It is a pretty quick read though (I finished in a few hours) which was nice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DiggyDMD More than 1 year ago
The Boy Who Couldn't Die, by William Sleator, is an amazing adventure through the mysteries of life. The main character, Ken, is faced with the horror of the death of his best friend Roger. After realizing that something like this could happen to him, he takes a huge and risky precaution to ensure his safety. However, when his decision turns bad, can he save himself from himself? This book is exceptionally a good read for adventure-loving readers, but can also be enjoyed by others. I highly recommend reading this edge-of-your-seat novel.
floppyyy More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book, but like most short books I think that events moved a little too quickly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Ali0 More than 1 year ago
This book is full of adventure and makes your mind wonder to the last moment. It is a thriller and a shocker. Ken wants to be invincible after is friend roger died. Was his choice a good one or a bad? This book is a nail biting terror mystery, and I absolutely love it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
raveboy1829 More than 1 year ago
This is a good book if, like me, you have a library of books, and your undecided what to read. Grab this one!!! There were a few parts that were thrilling, which is a good thing. It had mystery, suspense, and there was a little bit of a love story going on, which got confusing at the end. It would have been better if the book was longer.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i would rate this book a 4 and a half but they dont have it....the ending was a little dissapointing but its REALLY good!!!! read it i read it in 3 hours sooo good
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It is the first book I read by William Sleator. I really want to see what other good books he has written.By the way you can tell that this is a good book 'cuz it is hard for me to find a book I really enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read!! There is so many clues and twists when you think you figured it out something else will happen to prove you wrong. This book keeps you on the edge of your seat. Willaim Sleator does such a good's scary!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Sleator does a great job of making this book suspenseful. There is so many twists and clues. It is a true mystery to what will happen next!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The boy who couln't die is written by william sleator.I recommend this book because it's intense and filled with scary truths!It's about a boy named ken who loses his best friend.After the death Ken decides he never wants to he finds this lady named cheri buttercup who turns him invurnable {meaning he can never die}.KEN decides to test his life.He finds about scuba diving in the carribian where he goes and finds a shark.he gets closer to it and it bites him nothing happened.he meets a girl named sabin who he falls in love with!she finds out about ken and tell him he can never get his soul back unless he looks for it.he soon starts looking for it with sabine but he must hurry and find it before he becomes cheri buttercups slave for ever and she makes him kill more people!will he ever get his soul back?will he ever get the chance to see his best friend again?read this book and unlock the magic beaneth it's pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books i have ever read.It was well writen, suspenseful, creepy, and it was hard to get away from. I read the book in 2 days. I was amazing I have nothing bad to say about 'The Boy Who Couldn't Die!' I recomended this book to over a dozen people and after reading this book I had to get another one of William Sleators books. I have read 3 of his books so far and i plan on reading more. For people that like science check out 'The Last Universe!' And for people that like off the wall thing get any thin by Sleator.!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The boy is missing his friend Roger. He doesn't really want to die. The Cheri Buttercup gal is really mean to him. This girl that he met is going to try to help him get his soul back from her!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was about a boy who wanted his soul taken away because of the memories from his friends death. He went and got it taken away, by this girl named Cherry Buttercup. When she had taken her soul away she did it by taking this powdery stuff and scraping it in to his skin on his chest. When she had finished he could barley breath, he was very cold and was numb all over, and it felt like bugs where underneath his skin. Cherry Buttercup then stuffed this goo into his mouth, and everything got better. He only had to pay her $50 dollars for taking his soul away. What she did with his soul was she had hidden it somewhere and he had no clue where. That night he was picking up a hot burnig pan and it didn't even burn him, or hurt him. He and his family then go on a vacation to the Carribean and his dad and him take scuba lessons. Ken had gone out to a deeper part of the reef, and had seen a shark, he had no fear of it. He wanted the shark to attack him and it did it bit off his leg,.....but nothing happend! One of his instructers was a girl his age named Sabine, and she had seen it happen. Ken and Sabine came very close by the end of the trip. Sabine had told Ken that this Cherry Buttercup girl could control his soul, and on what it did. One night Ken had a dream, and it was about he had a knife, and cut somebodys head off. The next day he found out that it really had happend. Almost every time Ken would have a dream he would wake up saying something different each time. He then found that they were clues to where his soul was, so him and Sabine went to northern New York. To get to his soul they had to go through FREEZING cold water that had a THICK layer of ICE on top. Sabine had brought along her scuba gear, and had filled the air tanks. When they had gotten downt into the water Ken was worried about Sabine, because he was invulnerable and but she wasn't. Ken and Sabine end up getting Kens soul back, but as there going back up Sabine loses her air! Read the book to find out if Sabine lives to see the next day, or if she'll be gone like Ken's friend.