Brooks, Kevin (2006). The Road of the Dead. New York: Scholastic. 339 pages.
Summary and Evaluation: Fourteen year old Ruben has always had the ability to experience exactly what a member of his family is experiencing; thus he knows the exact moment his sister, Rachel, is murdered. Frustrated that they cannot get her body back, Ruben and his older brother, Cole, leave London for the small town where Rachel was murdered. Up against racial antagonism and a town desperate to keep its secrets, Cole and Ruben must find a way to see justice done. At first this book reeled me in, and I was anxious to see how the mystery was solved. About half way into the book, the murder is solved, and the book devolves into a story akin to a bad action movie - no plot, moderate characterization, a lot of shooting, and gallons of blood. The blood and shooting would have been no problem if only combined with sufficient evidence of motivation by Ruben and Cole. The only explanation is that Cole wants his sister's corpse back. I also had to remind myself that the book was set in England and the racial friction was between the British and the gypsies. The dialog and the language of the writing made the story feel like it was set in the American South. Racial discrimination between gypsies and other groups is not often handled in literature, and I would have appreciated more coverage of that theme. I also got the impression that Ruben's premonitions were an excuse to switch perspectives which became confusing. With that said, this book probably has great appeal for those who love action. Cliffhangers at the end of most chapters keep the action moving, and it is easy to get swept up in the bloody emotion of the moment.
Booktalk Hook: Ruben's premonition at the beginning of the story elicits a lot of emotion. I would start a booktalk by asking the question, "How would you feel if you could know what your family members were experiencing at any moment? What if that family member were being murdered? This is exactly what happens to Ruben when he experiences his sister's murder along with her."
4 weeks ago