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Novgorodoff, Danica. The Undertaking of Lily Chen. 2014.

Another one of those books I was checking in at work and went, “Sure!” It has a very arresting cover, as you can see above, and it caught my eye.

In a tragic accident, Deshi finds himself responsible for his brother Wei’s death. His grief-stricken parents order Deshi to carry out an ancient tradition. Because Wei died unmarried, he must be married to a dead girl to keep him company in the afterlife. Deshi is to find the corpse of a woman to marry to his brother. He hires a grave robber, Song, to help him find a suitable bride for Wei. They get separated in the spooky graveyard the night they dig up a corpse, and Deshi ends up stumbling upon a small village where a girl named Lily Chen is living. Her father has just ordered her to marry the landlord so they can continue living in their house. Lily is desperate to escape, and Deshi needs a fresh body for his brother. They run away together, starting their misadventures through the mountains of Northern China, though each is running to their own different destinations…

The art in this book is beautiful. The backgrounds are all in watercolor, and the characters I’m assuming are either ink, marker, or digital. There are some instances where the watercolor interacts with the characters, such as dust or mist hovering in front of someone, and it makes some cool effects. The book is broken up into chapters, like a traditional book, and each title page has a beautiful red Chinese stamp in shapes of animals or masks. It made for pretty easy reading because you could stop without having to worry about stopping in the middle of the book. You spend much of the book in suspense, wondering whether or not Deshi is going to kill Lily, especially as they grow closer. It’s funny and pretty light-hearted for all that, introspective throughout: an enjoyable read. There is some strong language and more adult themes, so I’d give it to an older teen. You’ll probably be so captivated by the art you won’t be bothered, though =P

– Kathleen

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