Jobling, Curtis. Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse
November 10th 2015 by Viking Books
Copy Provided by publisher
Review posted at Young Adult Books Central
Since Max's father died, he has been living with the quiet, older Jed who can only cook eggs and clam chowder. The two are both monster hunters, whose daily life involves multiple encounters with ghouls, vampires, and other assorted paranormal nasties. Fortunately, Max has good friend, Syd, who knows the truth, a younger neighbor boy, Wing, who hangs around, and a "puppy", Eightball, given to him when his 13th birthday is nearing. Unfortunately, Eightball is a drooling, pudgy Hellhound, which is not exactly what Max has in mind. When his birthday comes, he does not have a good day-- Eightball acts strangely, he gets caught in the rain, is attacked by a flame monster at school, suspended, and then attacked by more creatures all day! When Udo Vendemeier kidnaps Wing by mistake, Max has to meet with this evil person who has taken over the body of a security guard, and uncover many family secrets in order to get back his young friend, as well as Jed.
Jobling's Wereworld series is a popular one, but Max's story is more accessible and action-packed. While love-dovey vampire stories are on the wane, anything with blood and gore, zombies, and reanimated warlocks from the time of the Salem Witch Trials who want to overthrow the world are always great for readers who like scary books.
This is the start of a series, and I feel like more secrets about Max will surface, and we will see more character development in future books. Where is Max's unmentioned mother? How can Max use his father's notes about monster hunting to good advantage? And will Jed learn to cook anything more? I really enjoyed the character of Syd, who comes to Max's rescue riding her bicycle, but I also feel that there is room for some romance there as well.
Bonus points for diversity on this one-- Jed is African-American, Wing is Asian, and Syd is Hispanic. This is mentioned briefly in various descriptions of the characters, and while integral to who they are, is not why they are in the story.
Readers who enjoy Joseph Delaney's very popular The Last Apprentice series (which was made into the movie The Seventh Son), will find this to be a good, modern update on what it's like to be in charge of ridding the world of monsters. Hegarty's Darkmouth or Lore's The Knightmare Academy would also be read-alikes.
For a good dose of midnight graveyard trysts,threatening gargoyles that come to life, and historically based family curses, it doesn't get any better than Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse!