Kessler, Jackie Morse. Loss (Riders of the Apocalypse) Houghton Mifflin/ Graphia 258p $8.99 978-0-547-71215-4 hs VG Supernatural
Loss, a companion book to Hunger and Rage, features Billy Ballard, a boy who is bullied relentlessly at school. Then he realizes that he’s been tricked to become one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
There is no doubt that the story is unique. To bring a bullied child together with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and have him not only learn about himself, but also overcome his fears and self-doubt, is an interesting and original premise. In addition, Kessler’s poetic writing style is sublime. When she describes Death’s chuckle as “wind blowing through withered leaves” (p. 53), one knows that this author possesses talent in the use of literary devices and descriptive text. The plot begins with an introduction to Billy’s pain. His life is a contradiction; he is the victim of merciless bullying at school, but at home, he is thrust into an adult role in that he helps his mother look after his grandfather, a victim of Alzheimer’s. Billy’s nightmares about an Ice Cream Man at the park add to the rising action, and it is when Billy begins to hear voices that the reader begins to feel a chill as well. The conflict? Death tells him that he is the new Horseman of Pestilence, an “honor” bestowed on him when he made a pact with the existing horseman while at the park as a child. Billy does not want this new role and must search the world for the Ice Cream Man, AKA the White Rider, who has given up and is hiding. During his search, he finds himself and rids the world of a creature who would destroy everyone. His final decision? Should he remain in his new role as the Pale Rider or should he return to be Billy Ballard once again? Readers will either like the detailed descriptions of Billy’s journey to find the Ice Cream Man and accounts of Billy’s sometimes light, sometimes dark discussions with Death, or they will feel “stuck” in the pages of the journey, which seems to take an inordinately long time. Regardless of how the reader reacts, the idea that one can defeat bullying is an important one for everyone.
This book must be read carefully by a mature reader; it is best for a high-school library or for a public library for an older audience.-- Martha Squaresky