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Review: Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler

Loss (Riders of the Apocalypse #3) by Jackie Morse Kessler
Young Adult, Supernatural, Social Issues
Paperback $8.99 (272 pages, GRAPHIA)
Ebook $8.99

Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on, from the school bullies to the teachers. But things change drastically when Death tells Billy he must stand in as Pestilence, the White Rider of the Apocalypse. Now armed with a Bow that allows him to strike with disease from a distance, Billy lashes out at his tormentors...and accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis. Horrified by his actions, Billy begs Death to take back the Bow. For that to happen, says Death, Billy must track down the real White Rider—who is lost in his memories.
In his search, Billy travels through White Rider’s life: from ancient Phrygia, where the man called King Mita agrees to wear the White Rider’s Crown, to Sherwood Forest, where Pestilence figures out how to cheat Death; from the docks of Alexandria, where cartons of infested grain are being packed onto a ship that will carry the plague, to the Children’s Crusade in France—all the way to what may be the end of the world. When Billy finally finds the White Rider, the teen convinces the man to return to the real world.
But now the insane White Rider plans to unleash something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black Death look like a summer cold. Billy has a choice: he can live his life and pretend he doesn’t know what’s coming, or he can challenge the White Rider for his Crown. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand his ground—and the courage to save the world?

Author Site: jackiemorsekessler.com

What exactly happened here? (2 stars)

Billy Ballard's life is a series of just-getting-by moments as he takes beatings and harassment from his classmates and struggles to help care for his Alzheimer's afflicted grandfather. But little does Billy know that the nightmare figure from his childhood that promised him a ride on his white horse in exchange for bearing his crown is about to become the most challenging thing in his life.

Charged by Death with the task of bringing back the wayward White Rider, acting as Pestilence in his stead, Billy faces his own demons. Bearing the Bow of Pestilence can give him revenge on his tormentors but at what cost? For it is the duty of the Riders to maintain the balance before the end of days when the Four ride as one. There's only one way Billy can bring Pestilence back into balance and it will take him finding his inner strength to do so.

Unfortunately for me as a reader this series has continued to decline in it's authenticity. While HUNGER rang true with the author's personal experiences to rely on, RAGE felt lacking, and LOSS felt even more so. The biggest struggle I had with this book was that it felt like she was pantsing her way through it trying to force it to be about one topic (Gramp's Alzheimer's) while neglecting the one that I thought was supposed to be central.

I love, love, love that part of the proceeds for each book go to very worthy charitable organizations working for teen relavent issues. But what surprised me was that in this time when Bullying is getting lots of press and groups are rising up to teach children how to handle it... why is this book not focused on that aspect of Billy? This time the proceeds are for Alzheimer's, which I respect but feel mixed about with this being a YA novel.

I really liked Billy and his relationship with his grandfather but spent most of the book waiting for anything interesting to happen. Even the bullying lacked the genuine feeling of fear I watched my brother, who was so badly bullied he dropped out before high school, go through. The bullies were two-dimensional stereotypes like you see in movies and the bullying was such a small part of the actual plot I blinked when I finished LOSS wondering what the heck I'd just read.

Mostly it's a lot of Death and Billy talking, Billy seeing 'flashbacks' of the White Rider's life (I won't spoil it but this all felt silly and contrived too), and the same stuff over and over until I wanted to just stop reading. But I wanted it to get better, I wanted to at least rate it okay, and in the end I didn't like this book enough. It's saving grace is that Billy really is a likable character. As I finished it I was left thinking 'what on Earth did I just read?'. Unless you're a die-hard fan of this series I just can't recommend it.

Other Reviews:

Notes: ARC received via Amazon Vine.

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