Texting the Underworld

( 3 )


Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O'Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee girl named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, but she's new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school. As Conor attempts to hide her identity from his teachers, he realizes he's going to have to pay a visit to the ...

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Texting the Underworld

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Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O'Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee girl named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, but she's new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school. As Conor attempts to hide her identity from his teachers, he realizes he's going to have to pay a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.

"Got your cell?"
"Yeah . . . . Don't see what good it'll do me."
"I'll text you if anything happens that you should know."
"Text me? Javier, we'll be in the afterlife."
"You never know. Maybe they get a signal."

Discover why Kirkus has called Booraem's work "utterly original American fantasy . . . frequently hysterical." This totally fresh take on the afterlife combines the kid next door appeal of Percy Jackson with the snark of Artemis Fowl and the heart of a true middle grade classic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Booraem did in Small Persons with Wings, she uses mythological creatures (in this case, banshees) to tell a story that packs an emotional wallop. Conor O’Neill is a smart but timid seventh-grader, afraid of spiders, sneaking out, and leaving his Southie neighborhood to go to Boston Latin School. When a banshee straight out of his Irish-born grandfather’s stories appears in Conor’s room, he’s terrified that someone he loves is going to die soon. The banshee, Ashling, is new at her job, and she doesn’t know who will die or when. Since her mortal life ended hundreds of years ago with an ax to the head, she’s curious about the present day, and she masquerades as a new student at Conor’s school (armed mainly with knowledge obtained from outdated Trivial Pursuit cards). Eventually Conor, his sister, and his friend Javier realize they’ll have to confront the possibility of death head-on. In an affecting, funny, and provocative story, Booraem balances the seriousness of a novel about death spirits and finding courage with Ashling’s comical interactions with the modern world. Ages 10–up. Agent: Kate Schafer Testerman, kt literary. (Aug.)
Horn Book
"Complex characters, a moving story line centered on family and courage, and plenty of exciting moments make this an appealing read for those fans of tales mixing traditional folklore with contemporary life."
"Booraem manages to pack a lot of energy into this very modern story about ancient traditions surrounding death. . .Readers will relish the quirky cast of supporting characters from the underworld. . ."
VOYA - Hilary Crew
His father maintains that the dreadful wailing noise they hear is a screech owl or a car alarm, but twelve-year-old Conor O'Neill's grandfather, versed in Irish folklore, knows better: it is a banshee. When Ashling materializes and tells Conor that she has been sent to keen the death of one of his family, an already nervous Conor begins wearing his helmet to school. The Celtic belief in reincarnation is central to story. Dressed in the tunic and cloak that she wore in a previous life in the fifth century, Ashling, charismatic and irresistible, is fascinated with technology and facts from Conor's Trivial Pursuit cards and wishes to be reborn. Conor begins to have vivid memories of his life as Declan, in which he was indirectly responsible for Ashling's death; and Conor's eccentric grandfather persuades Ashling to take him to the Underworld to challenge the three "Birds" who control life and death so that he will be the one fated to die. Vivid descriptions of a re-imagined technological Underworld include the Celtic goddess Cailleach registering the dead on a computer. Fascinating characters include the duplicitous "Lady" of the Underworld and her charming chief advisor, the part-lion Nergal. Booraem approaches a family story about moral dilemmas with a light touch. Humorous and not so tightly written, episodes such as Ashling's attendance at Conor's school and the abduction of Conor's grandfather from the hospital contrast with Conor's testing of the Birds and his decision affecting the lives of his grandfather, sister, and Ashling. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Middle-schooler Conor O'Neill has a tendency to believe his grandfather's stories from Irish mythology and folklore despite the rest of his family's clear disdain for such tall tales. Teased for being afraid of everything, he is forced to face his greatest fears when a banshee shows up in his bedroom one night, looking to escort a family member to the underworld and earn her own mortality. The two become cautious friends as the banshee, named Ashling, decides to follow him to school with both humorous and disastrous consequences. When Conor makes the brave choice to head to the underworld and rescue a family member from death, he starts to respect himself. At times wildly funny, and at times creepily spooky, Texting the Underworld merges a realistic setting with fantasy, seamlessly creating a touching story full of suspense, action, and excitement.—Sharon McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Fantasist Booraem (Small Persons with Wings, 2011, etc.) turns her attention from art to another great human endeavor: death. Timorous 12-year-old Conor O'Neill is scared of spiders, doesn't want to play hockey and is dubious about leaving Southie to attend Boston Latin. When a banshee shows up, ready to keen for an imminent family Death, he is sent directly over the edge into terror. Who's to die? His parents? His beloved, Irish-to-the-core grandfather, Grump? His "soul-sucking demon warrior" of a little sister, Glennie? Conor himself? Cripes. Rookie banshee Ashling needs her Death; it's the only way she can move on from the Underworld and into a new life. Hoping to find a loophole, Conor, Glennie and an ailing Grump venture with her into the Underworld to talk to the Lady and undergo the test of the Birds in order to gain power over life and death. Booraem applies a light touch to her heavy subject. Iron Age–era Ashling eagerly, if inaccurately, adopts 21st-century slang and catches up with old Trivial Pursuit cards; the various denizens of the Underworld--a gleeful olio of afterlife mythologies--squabble like those who've been cooped up together too long. But she doesn't avoid staring death in the face, saddling her likably unlikely hero with an agonizing decision that, though framed in fantasy, is all too gut-punchingly real. Like Conor, readers will emerge from this adventure a little bit better equipped for heroism than before. (Fantasy. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803737044
  • Publisher: Dial
  • Publication date: 8/15/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 496,866
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Booraem, a native of Massachusetts, now lives in Downeast Maine. She is the author of The Unnameables (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults), Small Persons With Wings, and Texting the Underworld. All of Ellen's books have, among other awards, been picked as Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews. In addition to being a writer, Ellen is also a mentor and a writing coach. She lives with a cat, a dog, and an artist in a house they (meaning the humans) built with their own hands.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2013

    I don¿t review Middle Grade as often as I should and I constantl

    I don’t review Middle Grade as often as I should and I constantly fear that I’m missing out on books as good as these. Texting the Underworld captures a part of the paranormal that typically gets ignored : the Banshee. 

    I could definitely tell that the demographic was aimed at someone younger than me, so it’s not one of those cross-generational novels that appeal to everyone. Still, it’s a book I would recommend for my sister’s fifth grade classroom, or give as a gift to my younger cousins. 

    It’s hard not to relate paranormal books to other paranormal books that are out right now. So, while I can’t compare it to other middle grade novels, I can say that Texting the Underworld, reminded me a lot like The Georgina Kincaid series, except for it’s target audience. 

    What makes it especially great, in my personal opinion, is how I don’t think it will be labeled as a “boy” or “girl” book. The cover doesn’t give much away, but certainly appeals to the generation that has grown up with smart phones. It is easily enjoyable for either gender and I appreciate how the marketing has chosen not to make it go one way or the other. 

    Conor is a strong main character, with realistic faults for his age. More than that, I loved the way Booraem chose to show how time can change a person, to the point that both people can be nearly unrecognizable to each other, without losing the essence of a person. While I feel like that is something adults have learned, it’s harder to express in books for children, who have only been alive for a decade. 

    For me, the female characters stole the show. Ashling and Glennie were both vibrant and outgoing, the latter’s brattiness more amusing than frustrating. While both characters had flaws of their own, they were interested in adventure and learning. They weren’t the main character, but they were just as detailed and personable. 

    I probably won’t be adding Texting the Underworld to my personal library, but I’ve been building up a collection for my eventual kids, and it will be added to that.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Warriors den


    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013


    Im the first to write a review

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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