The Dead Boys

The Dead Boys

4.8 14
by Royce Buckingham
     
 

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In the desert town of Richland, Washington, there stands a giant sycamore tree. Horribly mutated by nuclear waste, it feeds on the life energy of boys that it snags with its living roots. And when Teddy Matthews moves to town, the tree trains its sights on its next victim.

From the start, Teddy knows something is very wrong with Richland-every kid he meets

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Overview

In the desert town of Richland, Washington, there stands a giant sycamore tree. Horribly mutated by nuclear waste, it feeds on the life energy of boys that it snags with its living roots. And when Teddy Matthews moves to town, the tree trains its sights on its next victim.

From the start, Teddy knows something is very wrong with Richland-every kid he meets disappears before his eyes. A trip to the cemetery confirms that these boys are actually dead and trying to lure him to the tree. But that knowledge is no help when Teddy is swept into the tree's world, a dark version of Richland from which there is no escape . . .

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Nancy Wallace
Twelve-year-old Teddy Matthews moves to Richland so his mom can work at a nuclear power plant. The arid desert is unappealing, and his neighborhood offers few companions his age. A massive sycamore looms over his house from the yard next door. While other plants struggle in the desert heat, the sycamore has an eerie strength and vitality. Teddy's forays into town leave him puzzled. Scenes and neighborhoods change from one visit to the next. He meets boys who seem oddly out of sync with the present. His visits to a trailer court and a cemetery lead to a startling realization: "I've been hanging out with dead kids." All the deaths seem to be linked to the tree, and Teddy fears he will be the next victim. When the sycamore makes its move, Teddy is armed with weed killer and a hatchet—he barely escapes alive. The plot is handled skillfully; tension builds as Teddy uncovers one clue after another. From the very beginning, the tree's malevolence is evident as its branches creep over the windowsill into Teddy's bedroom while he sleeps. The author doles out hints expertly, allowing the reader to be aware that Teddy is stepping back in time yet withholding the full explanation until the end. Teddy's battle to save himself and the other boys exposes him to everything he fears most, offering enough thrills and chills to keep readers up all night. An easy read, this is a great horror story for younger teens. Reviewer: Nancy Wallace
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In this tightly plotted suspense novel, Teddy meets several other 12-year-old boys in his new town, but there's something eerie about each one. Eventually he realizes that every kid died years ago under mysterious circumstances and that he may be the next target. The evil force behind their demise is a sentient sycamore tree with powers derived from nuclear waste, a kind of wild premise that actually makes for an appropriately creepy villain. Some readers will spot the hints about the dead boys' situation, uncovering bits of the truth along with or just ahead of the protagonist, as the well-paced tale moves deftly from mystery into high action. Ultimately he must endure each of the gruesome dangers that killed the ghostly kids, including rattlesnakes, scorpions, and the thorny, twisting tree that's behind it all. There's a nice mixture of cliff-hanger escapes, mystery exposition, and lighter moments provided by Teddy's narration. Though the hero's personality is not especially complex, the empathy he shows for the boys and his resourcefulness in defying the killer tree make him someone to root for. The climactic battle is appropriately suspenseful, leading to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
Kirkus Reviews

This new thriller adds a unique villain--a tree--the roster of deadly supernatural foes. This particular tree has been mutated by nuclear waste from a nearby plant and has learned that sucking the life from 12-year-old boys is an efficient and tasty way to enhance its energy reserves. When Teddy and his mom move to an eastern Washington desert town, Teddy sets out to find new friends. He meets several boys who seem to be living in past decades, and he soon learns that they died many years ago. Worse, Teddy realizes that he's the next intended victim--but he falls for the tree's clever efforts to lure him into its clutching branches anyway. Buckingham keeps readers' pulses pounding as Teddy uses his courage and wits to escape. He depicts the boys with dialogue and clothing appropriate to their decades of origin, a device that works well to keep the story on the edge of believability. Teddy's character may appeal to many young readers; he feels plenty of fear but has defiant courage, too. An inventive premise that yields solid supernatural suspense. (Horror. 8-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399252228
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
09/02/2010
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
707,571
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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