It gets sort of lonely here on Cape Cod where I have exactly two friends. Lucky for me, I have books. And even luckier for me, I have Lish McBride’s newest novel: Necromancing the Stone. It is every bit as funny and charming as her first novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and reading it made me feel like I was hanging out with old friends.
Necromancing the Stone picks up where Hold Me Closer left off. (And if you haven’t read the first book, then seriously, what is wrong with you? Go get it immediately.) Sam LaCroix, our sweet, dopey, necromancing hero, is trying to get used to his new life of communing with the dead, sitting on the local magical council, and figuring out how to impress his girlfriend’s family (because they happen to be werewolves). He and his friends have also just moved into the mansion where Douglas Montgomery, Sam’s evil, necromancing enemy, used to live, and they’re having some trouble meshing with the aggressive lawn statues, as well as James, the shape-shiting house spirit. So yeah, you could say there’s a lot going on.
The thing I love about both books (besides the humor – I often find myself laughing out loud), are the characters and their relationships with each other. Sam’s interactions with his girlfriend (Brid) and best friend (Ramon) are some of the most realistic, adorable, and funny portrayals of young adult romance and bromance I’ve ever read. Of course, it’s not just his relationships with Brid and Ramon that are good; Sam has interesting family, friends, and frenemies out the wazoo. Back from the first book are Sam’s witchy mom and sis, as well as dweeby Frank, who has traded his fast food uniform for a job as Sam’s assistant. (This mostly involves keeping the garden gnomes under control.) We’ve still got the ghosts Brooke and Ashley, the mysterious Jackal-head-guy Ed, a pack of werewolves, and all those nutty/scary folks from the magical council. As if that wasn’t enough, McBride also introduces a whole new slew of zany-magical characters. I won’t spoil the surprises for you, but let’s just say that one is a Hollywood star, and another reveals the true reason why UPS men are so sexy.
It just so happens that I finished reading Necromancing the Stone, and then the very next night I watched the John Waters’ film, Crybaby. (You know – the one where Johnny Depp and Ricki Lake play brother and sister.) I’m certainly not trying to liken Lish McBride to John Waters, (she is about a trillion times less creepy, for one thing), but I will say that both of them aren’t afraid to write off-the-wall characters or orchestrate scenes in which all of their nutty characters are in one place at one time, usually fighting and going crazy. In Crybaby, you have a loud-mouthed albino girl named Hatchetface and a grandmother who makes a baby crib out of bones. The movies culminates with a screaming dance routine/brawl down at the jailhouse. In Necromancing the Stone, you have a feisty garden gnome named Twinkle the Destroyer and a satyr who looks like a dirty hippie. The novel culminates with a frantic raising of the dead/brawl down at the werewolf compound.
Perhaps most importantly, though, both Crybaby and Necromancing the Stone carry the important message that your family is what you make it, even if it is the most motley of crews. Crybaby, Hatchetface, and the rest of their gang may seem like weirdos to the rest of the world, but they look out for each other, love each other, and dang if they don’t have a good time, too! The same exact thing can be said for Sam’s rag-tag team of teenagers, gnomes, ghosts, shape-shifters, and dangerous pets. Sam creates a home for those who need one, and he learns a lot about family and what it means to look out for those you love. By the end of the book, I felt like I was part of the family, too.
McBride has also perfectly captured the way young adults shoot the shit, and I almost felt like I could swing by Sam’s mansion any old time to sit in the lawn and watch the gnomes spar, or stand around in the kitchen, drinking soda and talking about zombies.
Two last comparison between Sam and Crybaby. For one, they are both loyal and a little bit goofy with big hearts and a lot of guts. For two, they both like music. As a homage to Sam’s love of music, the chapters in both novels are named for songs, like “Hello Darkness My Old Friend” and “Let’s Get Together and Feel All Right.” Not only is it clever and fun to see how the songs fit with what’s happening in the book, it finally helped me figure out that Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is a reference to the Elton John song that goes, “hold me closer, tiny dancer.” Yes. It took me this long.
I think that watching Crybaby last night gave me some nightmares, as most John Waters movies do. But for the previous few nights, since I have very few social activities here on the Cape, I spent my time hanging out with Sam LaCroix and his house of crazies. We had some hilarious and heart-warming times whilst necromancing the stone. I feel very lucky to have such great friends.