________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 20. . . .January 24, 2014


Student Bodies. (Poltergeeks, #2).

Sean Cummings.
Long Island City, NY: Strange Chemistry (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2013.
298 pp., trade pbk. & Ebook, $10.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-90884-422-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-90884-423-1 (Ebook).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Rachel Steen.

*** /4



Mom is even more overprotective than she was before I took my Dad’s place. There’s an air of tension in the house these days that’s so thick you need a welder’s torch to cut through it. This is not helped, by the way, when you’ve got a Great Dane clumping around the house. That it’s a talking dog took a bit of getting used to, but that enormous mutt is host to a spirit named Betty and she’s my protector as well as my familiar. I’ve decided that my entire existence is somewhere between a freak show and a 3D movie with explosions, the living dead and the very real prospect of getting killed. Still, I’ve got a boyfriend who thinks the sun rises and sets on me so that has to account for something. My life is pretty good right now but that can change in a heartbeat. After what happened to Mom, every day is an “anything can happen” day. Let’s see what this day brings….


Someone evil is lurking in the halls of Crescent Ridge High School, someone with enough malice to unleash an epidemic of Soul Worms, supernatural larvae that feed on the fabric of a victim’s humanity. After witnessing the death of one of the most popular kids in school, Julie and boyfriend Marcus find themselves in a race against time to uncover who is behind the attacks. All evidence points to a plot at the city Weir during the school’s winter formal- the place where the icy waters of the Bow river and a thunderous spillway will mean the deaths of more than one hundred of the school population. If Julie has any hope of saving their lives, she’ll need the help of some white witches and an Aboriginal mage whose powers are equal to or greater than Julie’s.

     In this sequel to Poltergeeks, author Sean Cummings picks up the story where the first book concluded. Julie and Marcus have gone fully from friends to couple, and Julie is enjoying normal teenage activities like dating and having a boyfriend. Julie’s mother, on the other hand, is extremely concerned about Julie’s being involved in a relationship, fearing that Marcus could end up becoming a casualty of Julie’s position as Shadowcull. The mother/daughter relationship in the novel is well-crafted, and Cummings creates a realistic dynamic that teens will appreciate and identify with. Julie is fearless, talented and in a position of extreme power, but she still has the same vulnerabilities as mortal teens, including a healthy dose of snark and rashness that makes her particularly entertaining to read about.

     As with the first book, there is a strong cast of supporting characters, including the Aboriginal mage Twyla, her grandfather, Betty the talking Great Dane, and her father’s ghost. Aboriginal characters in a contemporary setting are few and far between in young adult literature, and both characters are interesting, mysterious, and central to the story.

     The action moves swiftly, and while the story is somewhat darker than the first book, it’s a more fully-developed and more intense read. Julie has come into her own as a witch, finally has a relationship with her father -or at least her father’s spirit- and is bolder and more confident. Marcus’ character is somewhat flat, but readers will envy his devotedness to Julie and his determination to fight by her side.

     The area where the novel falls short is in the way the teenagers’ voices are written. It feels as though the author is trying too hard to capture how he thinks teenagers would speak and interact with each other, and it doesn’t quite ring true. The liberal amount of swearing also feels unnecessary and doesn’t contribute to the action.

     Despite these flaws, Student Bodies is a fun and suspenseful supernatural read that will have fans of the genre eager to see where the next installment takes them.


Rachel Steen is a “Sales and Selection Strategist" at EduReference Publisher's Direct.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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