The Last Martin

The Last Martin

by Jonathan Friesen


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The Last Martin by Jonathan Friesen

Thirteen year-old Martin Boyle, the most fearful hypochondriac born into a family of worriers, doesn’t want to visit the family cemetery. Truth is, none of the Boyles are thrilled about the annual trip to visit their war dead. It shames Mr. Boyle to think of his once courageous family line, and Mrs. Boyle is certain the greenish moss growing on the headstones carries disease. But after strict no-touch warnings from Mrs. Boyle (and an anti-bacterial scrub down), Martin ventures into the private cemetery for a grim remembrance. He’s surrounded by stones that bear his name. Martin, the Boyle family name, has been given to the firstborn male in each Boyle household for centuries. While his father offers a speech honoring Martins who have gone before, Martin wanders among his ancestors. The writing on the old headstones is hardly legible, and he scratches at birth and death dates with a stick. His analytical mind gravitates toward the numbers, and his stomach sinks. The pattern is clear: Martin 1770-1819. Martin 1819-1835. Martin 1835-1899. Martin 1899-1956. Martin 1956-1996. There’s always a Martin. Only one Martin. Martin panics. Not because he was born in 1996—that only fits—but because his uncle and aunt are expecting their first child, a boy, in three months. Tradition dictates they will name him Martin. He’s seen the graveyard. He has proof of the curse. When the next Martin is born, he’ll die. Martin’s parents believe the cemetery pattern is a coincidence, and a sign that their son needs professional help. It’s a belief that’s about to get stronger because their son, with the help of a homeless boy named Poole, is about to make his first decision of consequence: with twelve weeks until the baby’s arrival and no time to waste, Martin chooses to live. Little does he know that the key to his survival—the cornerstone of the curse—lies embedded beneath two hundred years of history, in an inscription that dooms the entire Boyle family line.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310723202
Publisher: Zonderkidz
Publication date: 04/23/2012
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 414,009
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 11 - 14 Years

About the Author

Jonathan Friesen is an author, speaker, and youth writing coach from Mora, Minnesota. His first young adult novel, Jerk, California, received the ALA Schneider Award. When he’s not writing, speaking at schools, or teaching, Jonathan loves to travel and hang out with his wife and three kids.

Read an Excerpt

The Last Martin

By Jonathan Friesen


Copyright © 2011 Jonathan Friesen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-72080-5

Chapter One

I was born dead.

Lani adds stupid and scrawny, but my little sister wasn't there. Mom was the only witness and she owns the tale. She loves to tell the story — usually on spaghetti night — of an evil umbilical cord that coiled like a python around my neck. I came out purply-gray. Silent. Still.


Dr. Underland's quick hands untangled me. She whacked and squeezed and inflated my limp lungs. But my wrinkled skin turned cold, and soon the doctor conceded to Death. "I'm so sorry." She shook her head, held me up for the light to glimmer off wet, raisined skin. "It's been too many minutes."

Mom pursed her lips and nodded. "Of course it has." For months, Elaina Boyle prepared herself for this moment — the one when disaster would strike. She knew I would die.

"I fear this was meant to be."

Mom always pauses here for dramatic effect. She reaches over the table and tousles my curly hair, hard. My glasses break free from their perch on my nose and fall lens-down into the spaghetti sauce.

Mom doesn't notice. She's in her glory throughout this tragic epic. "Dead. Limp. Lifeless." She perks up. "Another meatball, Martin?"

I grab a napkin and smear lumpy red off my lenses.

"I was certain your birth would be a tragedy," she says.

Dad clears his throat. I sit quietly. Lani can't.

"It was!" She grins and sneezes.

"Would you be quiet?" I say.

Mom lunges over the table and snatches up our centerpiece, a soap-filled gravy dish surrounded by fake fruit. A minute later, Lani is lathered and cleansed. Mom breathes deeply and continues. "Maybe if your father had been around —" She shoots Dad a sharp glance. His garlic toast pauses halfway between plate and mouth, then finishes the trip.

"Had he been home, I wouldn't have needed to find my own way to the hospital. Oh, the stress. You could have lived."

"But I did live!"

"Yes, I know." She looks at me and sighs. "Such a strange day that was. Cheese, anyone?"

Mom's in no hurry to retell the rest. But it's Dad's favorite part, so it's my favorite too.

The doctor placed my tiny carcass on Mom, and she cried — big, fat Mom tears. Three minutes later, she launched into her what-a-dangerous-world-this-would-have-been speech. It must have been a stirring version because I hiccupped. Again. And again. Then I coughed.

Mom sniffled and sat up. "What's happening?"

Dr. Underland dropped her clipboard and rushed toward the bed. "Touch him! Rub him. Your son is trying to live."

Mom lifted up my arm and let it flop back down. "Can't be happening."

It took a while for me to convince her, but by evening I had earned "miracle child" status, and Mom was overjoyed. As was Dad.

He burst into the newborn nursery the next day, fresh from the airport and still wearing his army fatigues. He grabbed the first child he saw, raised him to heaven, and christened him Martin, Martin Boyle. The child already had a name — Ahmad — and this caused quite a commotion. A husky nurse yanked the double-named brown kid from Dad and pointed to the bluish boy in the corner. Dad said he'd never been so proud.

He scooped me into strong arms, as every firstborn male born into the Boyle clan has been scooped. He spoke the words every firstborn Boyle has heard:

"I name you Martin."

And for the first time in my brief life, I cried.

* * *


I drop my fork with a clink. Mom's holler interrupts her own spaghetti story, and she scurries over to the cowbell that hangs above the kitchen sink. Lani and I cover our ears.


Mom sounds the alarm. Children beware. Get off the tracks, a train rumbles near.

She feels them coming deep in her bowels. I'm not sure where exactly that is, but her saying the b-word makes me squirm.

Of course, there are no children on the tracks, but Mom says she sleeps better knowing she did her part.

"What if?" She points to the three of us in turn. "What if there had been children at play on the rails? And they were deaf or dead? And the railmen fell asleep and rounded the bend?" She folds her arms and raises eyebrows in victory. "What would you say then?"

Lani shrugs. "Deaf kids couldn't hear your bell and dead ones don't need to?"

Mom puffs out air, plops down in her chair. "But my conscience is clear."

Clearly disturbed. Clearly paranoid. So yeah, clear.

But Mom's right about one thing. There are trains. Lots of them. House rattlers that rumble so near our home, the glasses tinkle in the cupboard.

It's what comes from living In Between, in the no-man's-land between downtown and the suburbs. It's an odd middle place filled with steel factories and smokestacks and train yards. It's where the Burlington line tires of heading north, hangs a U-ey, and heads west. And in the middle of the concrete and steel stand six old houses, built before there was concrete or steel. Huge houses that don't belong.

"Still," Mom continues, "train infestations are safer than animal infestations. In that regard, you're safe as safe can be," Mom says. "Surrounded by activity, out of the city, near a hospital, and far from the wilderness."

She fires Dad another harsh look. This time he sets down his fork and folds his hands. His cool eyes catch Mom off-guard, his words slow and carefully chosen.

"I can't help it my brother and Jenny chose to live in the country." He glances around the table. "Don't worry. It's not for another week, and we won't stay long." He lowers his voice, so that I think only I hear. "Hate to see you mauled by a squirrel."

"Can't Martin and I stay with Uncle Landis while you two go to the cemetery?" Lani squirms. "All those dead bodies —"

"Yeah." I bite my lip. "We could wait for you both at the farmhouse. I never met those buried people anyway."

Mom pushes back from the table. "Do you hear them, Gavin? The children are terrified and for good reason. They understand that cemeteries are breeding grounds for germs and —"

"No." Dad stands, and his eyes flash. "We will all go — Lani, without your attitude; Martin, without your fantasy books; and please, Elaina — without your paranoia."

Dad whips his napkin onto the table and storms down the stairs to Underwear World.

It's silent until Mom clears her throat. "Don't worry. I'll talk to your father."

I can't look at her. If Dad walked up, I couldn't look at him either.

So much for making him proud.


Excerpted from The Last Martin by Jonathan Friesen Copyright © 2011 by Jonathan Friesen . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Last Martin 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Novel_Teen_Book_Reviews More than 1 year ago
First I (Jill) must say, that I bought this book strictly because of the book trailer. I thought it was awesome. And I showed it to my son, Luke. After he watched it, he nodded at me, and I ordered the book. So, look up the trailer on YouTube. It's pretty cool. Martin Boyle lives a crazy life. His mother is a germaphobe and his father is never home-always off reenacting Civil War battles, his best friend is trying to steal the girl he likes, and on top of all that. Martin is cursed. In a graveyard of his ancestors, he discovers this horrible truth. When one Martin is born, the previous Martin dies. And Martin's aunt is about to give birth to a boy, who, according to family tradition, will be named Martin. I read this book aloud to my son, and we had a really hard time understanding what was going on at first. There were several places where Luke stopped my reading to asked a question. He was confused as to what had happened. So I read back to see what we had misunderstood. It was mostly the mom's character that had us puzzled. Once we realized that she was a germaphobe-and a beyond crazy one-things made a lot more sense. It would have been wise to have Martin think about her crazy, germaphobic tendencies in the first few pages, but maybe it was just us. About halfway through the book, it took off and we were hooked. We loved Poole. Once that guy came into the story, it was hysterical. Lani was also a fun character. And the idea of living each day as if it were the last, being yourself, and looking for joy in every moment made this a really powerful story. It turned out to be a lot of laugh-out-loud fun for both of us.
Cindi_the_examiner More than 1 year ago
Martin has lived a very protected life. His mother is a germaphobe and thus makes sure that Martin isn't subjected to germs by touching anything without the hand sanitizer nearby. He isn't allowed to climb trees, build forts, or even ride a bike for fear that danger will befall him. But all that changes when Martin realizes that when his newest cousin is born, a little boy, that his life will come to a screeching halt because of a family curse. Only then does Martin really begin to live. This is a book that lots of tweens will enjoy reading. Martin's friends are an unusual but also realistic cast of characters that join him in his quest to end the curse that plagues him. His mom is over the top but, that just makes the story funnier. Continue reading on Examiner DOT com Book review: 'The Last Martin' by Jonathan Friesen - San Francisco fiction
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
In this tale, we meet Martin Boyle. Martin is a young boy who has, to say the least, a very odd home life. While he spends his time writing fantasy stories, his mother spends her time repeating the story of Martin's birth.over and over again. To his extreme embarrassment, she even talks about it at the dinner table. Tears well up in her eyes as she tells how the umbilical cord was wrapped around her poor baby's neck, and the fact that he was pronounced dead by the doctor. But, amazingly enough, Martin began to breathe and his father rushed over, picked him up, and screamed the words that all past generations of Boyle's screamed when a son was born: "I name you Martin!" Martin's mother is a germ-o-phobe who truly believes that Martin and his sister will catch anything and everything once they walk out the door. She is a true paranoid loon who even makes Martin wear a portable air-pack when he rides the school bus, which is supposed to keep him 90% safe from all car accidents. Dad works at the Living History Museum and spends all his time dressed up in uniform, re-enacting battles, and discussing nothing but war. Charlie is Martin's best friend, and Julia is the girl of his dreams that he can't seem to talk to because he's too scared.opening the door for Charlie to become her boyfriend. D-Day soon arrives, which is a yearly occurrence in Martin's household that commemorates the Boyle family dead. Each year, Dad drags Martin and his sister out into the middle of nowhere to Martin's aunt and uncle's house. Aunt and Uncle Boyle are a truly hysterical couple who have a three-legged pit bull named Tripod, a mink living in their outhouse, and they spend a lot of time killing and cleaning all their own food. And Aunt Boyle is pregnant. As Martin looks around the cemetery, he discovers something he's never noticed before. All the graves read Martin Boyle, the name of all the males in his family, but what Martin has never realized before is that on the date that one Martin died - the next Martin was born. There were never two Martin Boyle's in the world at the same time. It's a curse! With the help of Charlie, Julia, his fantasy stories, and a strange boy named Poole who appears in the boxcar that sits on Martin's property, he must find a way to stop the curse. If he can't, then the day his Aunt delivers.Martin will die. The characters in this story are beyond amusing, especially Mom Boyle who has every phobia on Earth. The author has put together an extremely funny lot, rich in detail, with an ending that is absolutely perfect! Quill Says: Talk about a 'new' idea! This YA novel is fantastically fresh, and readers will laugh hysterically as they follow Martin through his extremely "crazy" world.
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