From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Part mystery, part morality tale, The Less-Dead
preaches tolerance through a story about a serial killer murdering gay teens. In Lurie's convincingly drawn corner of Austin, TX, youth groups and church camps dominate the social scene. Noah Nordstrom, son of radio personality Bible Answer Guy, is as much a rebel for his anti-evangelism as for the drug offense that got him sent to an alternative school. When a local gay teen in foster care is murdered, with a quote from Leviticus left nearby, Noah suspects that a homophobic caller to his father's show is responsible. His interest in the case becomes personal when he meets Will. Although Noah wants to respect gay people—both for moral reasons and to annoy his father—he is initially uncomfortable and hostile when Will reveals that he is interested in him. Then Will is killed. Noah uses his unique knowledge of him, including a journal of his poetry stolen from the crime scene, to investigate. Unsurprisingly, Noah learns there is more than meets the eye to a variety of characters: the tough-looking kid at school, the member of a homophobic church who is arrested for the murders, and, of course, the person who turns out to be the real killer. This is an adequate mystery, but savvy gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens, or those who already have LGBT people in their lives, may be underwhelmed by the message of tolerance.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library
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A little hashish landed Noah and his buddy Carson in juvie, but that doesn’t alter their goal of breaking into the local Austin, Texas, music scene. While playing guitar in a pedestrian area, Noah is befriended by Will, who shares Noah’s interest in poetry. The first shock is that Will is gay; the second shock is that Will has a crush on Noah, who is straight; and the third shock is that Will ends up dead, the latest victim of a killer who is targeting homeless gay teens. Cryptic notes suggest the killings have a biblical bent, yet a strained relationship makes it hard for Noah to turn to his religious talk-show host father (known as the Bible Answer Guy). Though peppered with surprises, the plot strains credibility near the end; thankfully, Lurie’s character details are totally refreshing. Noah’s conflicted response to Will is dead-on, as is the handling of the various strains of Christianity. A lengthy author’s note breaks down the Bible passages most commonly used to label homosexuality a sin. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus