Book Two in the Poltergeeks series
By Sean Cummings
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
I haven't read POLTERGEEKS, but I decided to read STUDENT BODIES anyway. There's a nice summary at the beginning and the adventure is self contained, so I didn't feel lost. The basics: Julie Richardson is a witch, her boyfriend Marcus is not magic, and Julie's mother is still trying to teach Julie everything that goes with her special powers (inherited from her deceased father).
The only thing confusing was how Julie and Marcus ended up dating. Marcus used to be seriously bullied, and Julie unfortunately doesn't come off as some one who gives much thought to her classmates who get bullied. The real problem in their relationship is that Julie's mom wants them to break it off since it puts Marcus in danger. Everyone concludes that she's right despite the fact that Marcus is never in any more danger than every student at the local high school.
Julie and Marcus narrowly safe one popular kid from death, and then another dies due to dark magic. If they don't work fast, the entire student body might perish. Luckily they have a new ally, Twyla Standingready. I'm not going to touch whether Sean Cummings' portrayal of First Nations people is authentic or not. I did like that Twyla is on an equal level with Julie and that they save each other at different points in the story. I didn't like that Julie kept pointing out that Twyla was Native and questioning her motives for helping. Twyla explains how she uses her magic with words such as "protect" and "balance," not "let a bunch of teenagers get slaughtered when I could help."
STUDENT BODIES will appeal to fans of witchy action. There are several magical battles, including a grand mal fight at the end. Cummings' world of witches is quite detailed, and the explanations flow organically since Julie is not yet a master of her craft. The characters felt a little distant to me, however; Marcus and Julie never build quite enough sizzle to make me care about their possibly forbidden romance. But the action is decent, and I like that the book emphasizes standing up for kids getting bullied.