AGERANGE: Ages 10 to 14.
Book Three of May Ellen Bird's adventures among the ghosts and ghoulies projects her--on her thirteenth birthday--back from Hog Wallow, West Virginia, to the Land of the Dead. She is really and truly projected: straight off the snowy roof of her house, becoming really and truly dead. It is tough luck, especially since she is barely recovered from the earthly publicity connected with her last disappearance. Now, with only the help of her cat, she must try to save her dead friends from the villainy of Evil Bo Cleevil who is attempting to change the afterlife into a huge, endless strip mall. Get the picture? Apparently scads of young readers are into such ghastly, ghostly plots, else why would the first two books be bestsellers? A matter of taste, certainly. Yet Anderson's final offering in the series is a scattered mishmash of back story, some feeble attempts at romance between May and her two suitors, and a bunch of unbelievable stunts which May half-heartedly performs. It is a pity young fantasy readers cannot be turned on to the classier, more positive fiction of writers like Diana Wynne Jones and Eva Ibbotson. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
In this third installment of her adventures in the Land of the Dead, May Bird, now in eighth grade, is home in Hog Wallow and living in White Moss Manor with her mother and her cat, Somber Kitty. May is still gangly and odd, but the extensive media coverage of her unexplained reappearance after an absence of three months has made her popular with her classmates. May invites them for her birthday party, which ends quickly when citizens of the Land of the Dead begin to communicate with her. Shortly thereafter, May and Somber Kitty return to the other side, where evil Bo Cleevil has taken over by force, destroying many communities. May quickly reunites with her friends in the Land of the Dead, especially Pumpkin who has since become a big pop star, and together they create an underground network to overturn Bo Cleevil and return the Land of the Dead to its previous peaceful state. Anderson's descriptions of the Land of the Dead are clever; the ghouls shop at Crawl-Mart and Bo Cleevil is adept at using propaganda. There is a message here for her readers. May's strength lies in her unconventional nature, which will continue to endear her to fans who will be eager to read this new book, which relies on knowledge of events taking place in the previous books. Reviewer: Jenny Ingram
Though definitely not a standalone, this decisive closer to a wonderfully droll and scary series takes young May Bird, now 13, back to the Ever After for a climactic confrontation with the nearly all-powerful Evil Bo Cleevil. Unfortunately, that climax-though entirely satisfying and worthy of the two preceding episodes-follows some two dozen water-treading chapters largely filled out by her wandering through old haunts and reconnecting with previously met characters. Dismayed to discover that Cleevil's strip malls have taken over the Ever After and that he is poised, with his malign (if easily distractible) goblins and other Dark Spirits, to conquer Earth, May Bird gathers up her old allies for a seemingly hopeless assault on his massive fortress. Sending her newly adolescent protagonist up against an overwhelmingly powerful opponent that is revealed to be the embodiment of the elemental but infantile need to own or control everything, Anderson brings the root conflict's metaphorical level to the surface without a trace of preachiness. She also offers several artful twists at the end that help, at least, to compensate for the fact that her story line needed some padding to fill up three volumes. It's still mostly masterful. (Fantasy. 11-13)