Reaps by Jess Mowry: all rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work by any means except short excerpts for use in reviews. The Kindle edition, to date, is the only legally authorized ebook or web-accessible edition of this work. If you find this book being offered anywhere else, either as a download or to be read online, it is there without the author's permission and in violation of copyright law.
Reaps is a collection of ghost and supernatural tales... though several don’t need ghosts to be scary. Most feature a rarity in the genre of young-adult books... young black male protagonists resourceful, brave and intelligent, and many in settings other than the inner-city.
In Little Coyote, for example, 13-year-old Mike Carver finds himself uprooted from his suburban home in Thousand Oaks, California to an old mine shack in the Arizona desert when his father, a struggling author of ghost stories, is financially haunted by Mike’s divorced mother. Mike, a budding body-builder, and possibly a potential health-nut, is dismayed to find that he seems to be stuck in a “dusty desert suckhole” where the only two boys within fifty miles are a smart-ass 12-year-old named Scooter whose life seems composed of video games, 200 channels of satellite TV, and non-parentally supervised access to the Web. Even worse from Mike’s point of view, Scooter smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and seems to eat nothing but junk-food. Mike’s alternate choice of companions doesn’t seem healthy either; an enormously fat Apache boy who cruises the desert in a gigantic mine truck, builds model ships in a place with no water, and howls with coyotes at night. The desert itself seems unhealthy to Mike, with a frightening abundance of rattlesnakes, “jumping cactus” with six-inch spines, and vultures waiting for him to die. If that wasn’t scary enough, the old mine shack appears to be haunted!
Examples of other settings where young black males encounter ghosts, deal with hauntings -- benign or malignant -- vanquish demons, and Satan Himself, are Goat Boy somewhere in America’s heartland, Children Of Death and Esu’s Island, both of which take place in Haiti, The Train To Lost Lake, in a forest in Maine, and The Picture set in a “nice little town.”
Stories which may or may not feature ghosts but are haunting nevertheless, include Spontaneous Combustion, a gothic-themed reminder that hate still haunts this world, as well as the The Execution which is hauntingly surreal. Homelessness can also be scary, especially to an 8-year-old-boy who may be dying of pneumonia in an abandoned funeral parlor: The Resurrection.
Jess Mowry does not take the safe route, whether walking through a graveyard at night or an inner-city alley; and neither are his characters the safe and stereotypical heroes who look the parts and play the roles allowed by the mainstream guardians of what young people “should” read. Some boys are fat, others vulgar, and a few are both... as well as adolescently randy. Most are on the verge of manhood and without guides, either spiritual or real, who find they must become their own heroes, and seek their own light in a dark scary world.