Monday, April 2, 2012

Supernatural Good Fun

Aubrey Taylor's life in high school is a haunted one. Red haired, freckled, smaller than most of his classmates, Aubrey is haunted by insomnia, bullies, a ghost, and possibly a Sasquatch. Can life get any worse? Talented author Ashland Menshouse's strong YA debut, The Last Stand and the Tomb of Enoch is set in the quaint and cozy Appalachian town of Lake Julian. The setting is picturesque, and is painted in colorful detail by Menshouse, but underneath the beautiful backdrop the novel is set in lies dark secrets and powerful legends that have come to life, making what is often a very emotional and tumultuous time-attending a new school, especially a new high school-even more difficult to handle for Aubrey.

Add to this, his perhaps well-meaning but overbearing father, a big brother who bullies him as much at home as the ones at school do there, and a mother who has psychiatric issues and is generally in a self-imposed isolation in her bedroom. When I say "perhaps well-meaning but overbearing father," I mean that his father would prefer him to be more outgoing and athletic like his older brother, Gaetan, and participate in activities like playing on the football team.

His father wants what he thinks is the best for Aubrey, but Aubrey is not like his older brother, and his father doesn't want to accept that. He even accuses Aubrey, one night when a ghostly intruder invades Audrey's room, of being on drugs and possibly taking his mother's pills. Aubrey denies this, as he didn't take his mom's pills or any drugs at all, but his father seems unwilling to believe him. Of course, parents should be concerned if their kids start acting differently than they usually have acted, but Aubrey's father seemed to me to be kind of a jerk.

Fortunately, Aubrey has a couple of good friends to help ease his far from pleasant high school experience: Buzz Reiselstein and Rodriqa Auerbach. Buzz is paunchy but generally optimistic, trying to see the bright side of things. He's very intelligent, and inventive, and many of his inventions play key and sometimes humorous roles in this novel. Rodriqa's dad works at the Lake Julian dam, and she is an interesting character who instigates a budding friendship and perhaps romance with a new girl, Jordana. The cute, glasses-wearing Jordan is also a major character in The Last Seer. She also suffers from nightmare-induced insomnia and initially has a difficult time fitting in, like Aubrey. Her mother has mysteriously died, and she lives with her father, who has been horribly disfigured by being in some sort of accident.

Added to this cast of characters are Magnos Strumgaten and his buddies, Benjamin and Leonard Van Zenny, who are bullies who have followed Aubrey to high school from middle school. They are mean to Aubrey, and make him do their homework assignments in their Chemistry class. Buzz tries to intervene and help with an invention of his, but like most of the times he tries to help Aubrey, things go horribly wrong. The invention writes in invisible ink that won't appear unless it's held up to a light or heat source, which Buzz does, right at the beginning of class after the assignments are turned in, to prove that Aubrey wrote the reports on elements for them.

Aubrey was supposed to have signed them with his name. But, instead of Aubrey's name, each paper has written on it: Free Me. The ghostly figure who had paid Aubrey a visit wrote those words on the papers, instead of Aubrey. When Buzz tries to expose the bullies, he instead only embarrasses himself and Aubrey, and makes the bullies angrier than ever at both of them.

A battle is taking place in the sleepy town of Lake Julian, a battle between spurious specters and elusive mountain men, for the tomb of the Watchers. Will Aubrey and his friends get caught in the grip of the ancients' desire for revenge? Find out when you read The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch! It's a marvelous novel that I highly recommend to anyone who loves books like R.L. Stine's, with a quirky and cool mixture of humor and horror. The novel is the excellent author's, Ashland Menshouse's, debut, and I look forward to reading and reviewing more of his novels in the future.

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