Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lord Loss by Darren Shan

Lord Loss by Darren Shan
ISBN: 978-0316012331
Little, Brown 2006
240 p.

Plot Summary: The unfortunately named Grubbs Grady is a regular teenager with a taste for gross practical jokes. His family, who has an obsession with chess, starts acting strangely one day and sends him away for the night. Grubbs comes back to see what was going on and discovers that his family has been slaughtered by a demon named Lord Loss. After a short stint in a mental institution, Grubbs' uncle Dervish takes care of him. Dervish helps Grubbs discover that the Grady family has a long and mysterious line of supernatural occurrences. Grubbs meets a young man named Bill-E who seems to be a friend of Dervish. After Grubbs finds out about Bill-E's true identity, he finds that he and Dervish must summon the evil Lord Loss in a battle of wits and strength for Bill-E's life.

Critical Analysis: Shan's writing style is very barren and to the point. Some could argue this is a strength, some a weakness. I found the short incomplete sentences to be a bit irritating. "Woke up. Breakfast. Eggs and sausage. Off to school." Shan's imagery is impressive, that seems to be his specialty. I think teens read his books for the gross out moments and thriller factor more than for horror. The gross out moments are largely told by simile or metaphor. Usually something like, "the demon's six arms were like slimy, slithering snakes" or "the rat guts beared too close a resemblance to my aunt's casserole." These literary elements usually spark the reader's interest and provide a nice break in the prose.

Shan's characters are a bit sparse, the reader never gets a feel for Grubbs despite his role as protagonist. He seems to have a dark sense of humor and a tendency towards the supernatural, but it could be argued that this is simply Shan's voice. The pacing of Lord Loss was also a bit off. Very little time is spent killing off Grubbs' parents, too much time is spent in the mental institution, and the middle drags when Grubbs is just hanging out with Dervish before any new story elements are built.

Reader's Annotation: Lord Loss killed Grubbs Grady's parents. Now Grubbs must prepare himself for a battle of wits and strength before the terrible demon kills another person he loves.

Author Information: Shan, or O'Shaughnessy, was born in Ireland. He wrote as a teenager, even taking second place in a TV script writing contest. Although he is most famous for young adult books, he has recently released an adult book entitled Procession of the Dead. He's also well known for his Cirque Du Freak series, which was adapted into film starring John C. Reilly.


Genre: Young Adult Horror/Thriller

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: What is the significance of chess in this book? Why did Grubbs' parents insist that he practice it?

Have each of the readers describe their own disgusting scene, using ad libs or a word bank.

Reading level/interest age: Grades 7 and up

Challenge Issues: Graphic imagery including blood, guts, and a few violent fight scenes.

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: I was a fan of the Goosebumps series when I was a kid, and Shan seems to have taken R.L. Stine's throne as the new YA horror author. I still enjoy horror books in general (especially Clive Barker and Dan Simmons), so I was naturally attracted to this title.

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