Children's books and book reviews - reading resource for kids, teachers, librarians, parents

*Pretty Freekin Scary #1: You Smell Dead* by Chris P. Flesh- young readers fantasy book review
Pretty Freekin Scary #1: You Smell Dead
by Chris P. Flesh
Ages 9-12 176 pages Grosset & Dunlap September 2007 Paperback    

If you like Mystery Meat, Snickering Willows may sound like the perfect place to locate. Not only was Mystery Meat invented here, but the huge Mystery Meat factory in town employs most of the citizens. For those still in school, new flavors of mystery meat - like Neapolitan Nacho Delight - are available for all the students to try in the local cafeterias. However, asking questions in Snickering Willows is a crime. Anyone found guilty of “Curiosity” is banned from the town forever; even those associated with a known “Questioner” are punished.

Franklin Ripp grew up in this town. A typical teenager, he was in a band, he liked to skateboard, and he had dreams of joining the football team and plans to kiss a certain girl. Because he lived in Snickering Willows, though, never in his whole life did Franklin ask a question, and that is why he died. But just because Franklin died doesn’t mean his life is over. This teenage boy has things to do, and a girl to kiss. He’s determined to come back to life and finish where he left off.

To do this, though, Franklin has to be very persuasive. He has to convince the Afterlife Commission that he is worthy of a return to the “Land of the Living.” Franklin is lucky: one of the Commissionaires is a bit of a romantic. Monsieur DeMise is touched by Franklin’s story about Lilly and grants him a second chance at life. Unfortunately, there is a condition attached to this return; Franklin only has until the end of the school year to kiss Lilly. With this in mind, Franklin is horrified to see where he’s returned and what he looks like. He looks three months dead, and he’s six feet underground - still in his coffin! To make matters worse; he’s not alone.

Needless to say, Franklin comes back home looking a little different. Make-up might hide the facial lesions and pale skin, and three sticks of deodorant might cover up his earthy, decaying smell, but only a good strong tape can ensure his ears and foot stay on. Much as Franklin tries to cover up his undeadness, all eyes are on him as he walks into the school cafeteria. Some are throwing insults, like "Freekin", and all shun his closeness - all, that is, except the Goths; they idolize him. But Franklin is back on earth to find Lilly. When he sees her with Brad, leaning in for...oh, he cannot look...he decides to put “Operation: Get Lilly Back” into effect.

Franklin does have his successes with his Lilly operation. He gets Lilly talking and smiling, and she even gets quite excited when she receives a gift from him. However, much to her horror, Franklin brings up the topic of asking questions - big mistake! She flees, but not before calling him an “evil questioning guy” whom she’ll never kiss.

Seeing his town through undead eyes makes Franklin realize how dangerous the unquestioning mindset of his town can really be. Steve and Lilly put themselves in risky situations, and now many of the citizens of Snickering Willows are accepting a diagnosis of “Chronic Snickering Syndrome” to explain away their symptoms of grunting noises, enlarged noses and itchiness. Franklin will need to make the most of his remaining time in life if he’s to kiss Lilly and solve the mystery effecting people’s noses.

As you can imagine, an author who calls herself Chris P. Flesh uses undead jokes throughout the story. These jokes, and two Underworld characters, add humor to Franklin’s story, which is sometimes interrupted by the narrator. Pretty and Scary follow Franklin to the “Land of the Living.” Pretty is a seven-eyed, ponytail-eared monster that likes shopping malls and loves human boys like Franklin. Scary is a phantom that can change his body into anything. When a magic carpet, a limousine, a helmet, or a bolt of lightning is needed, he's there! Although Pretty and Scary are initially hidden away in Franklin’s bedroom, they soon become an important part of the story. Their support is undying, and their help is not of this world.

Chapters start with quarter-page black-and-white illustration and a descriptive chapter title. Full-page black-and-white illustrations can be seen later on in each chapter. Enclosed within a decorative frame, these illustrations are meant to entertain, not scare.

The "Pretty Freekin Scary" series is full of promise. I enjoyed reading the book, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I especially want to read about the crush developing between Tuberculosis (a Goth) and Pretty.

click here to browse children's board book reviews
click here to browse children's picture book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young adult book reviews
click here to browse parenting book reviews
web reviews
  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

For grown-up fiction, nonfiction and speculative fiction book reviews,
visit our sister site Curled Up With a Good Book (