The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug MacLeod

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plenitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.

A very black comedy set in England in 1828, The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher shows what terrible events can occur when you try to do the right thing. 'Never a good idea,' as Thomas's mother would say.

When I started reading I expected this novel to be funny and ridiculous and not to have a whole lot of substance (the blurb on the back cover doesn't really make you expect literary genius). I didn't expect I'd like it (I try not to come to books with these expectations but I inevitably always do - I can't help it) - sometimes I find with humorous books, that everything's a little too out-there and preposterous and silly for me to empathise with characters.

And it was funny (sometimes laugh-out-loud funny), and pretty ridiculous in parts - I thought the story was fabulous and original, and the pacing was great (I had difficulty putting it down to do stuff that must be done such as eating and sleeping and schoolwork). I totally proved myself wrong (this happens frequently) and loved it. The characters were all likeable and offbeat and the story certainly had substance (lots of unexpected twists! Gosh, I hope I don't ruin it for you by telling you that). I was absolutely sympathetic for Thomas (his brother and mother especially are hilarious characters, too).

I’m not sure who to recommend this book to (I have trouble saying, oh, boys would like it, especially those between twelve and fifteen, because I don’t like to generalise and I don’t really know enough people and their tastes in books to make educated recommendations). But I will say that if you like comedic books (historical comedic books, even better), this won’t disappoint. (I wish I knew a book to compare it to, but I can’t think of anything.) Maybe you should just read the start here and see if it suits your tastes.

And, oh, the dialogue. It killed me. But not literally. Otherwise I wouldn't be writing this review right now. This is the summing-up sentence: The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher is brilliant: dark, witty and enthralling. And probably shouldn't be read in a graveyard at night. Not that you should read anything in a graveyard at night (though if you were going to, maybe you should take this, to lighten the mood. And also freak yourself out, because it's a little bit gruesome in parts). (Do you like the way I said in parts?)

On the publisher website
On the author website
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