Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb
Aubrey Taylor’s life in high school is a haunted one. Red haired, freckled, smaller than most of his classmates, Aubrey is haunted by insomnia, bullies, a ghost, and possibly a Sasquatch. Can life get any worse? Talented author Ashland Menshouse’s strong YA debut, The Last Stand and the Tomb of Enoch is set in the quaint and cozy Appalachian town of Lake Julian. The setting is picturesque, and is painted in colorful detail by Menshouse, but underneath the beautiful backdrop the novel is set in lies dark secrets and powerful legends that have come to life, making what is often a very emotional and tumultuous time–attending a new school, especially a new high school–even more difficult to handle for Aubrey.
Add to this, his perhaps well-meaning but overbearing father, a big brother who bullies him as much at home as the ones at school do there, and a mother who has psychiatric issues and is generally in a self-imposed isolation in her bedroom. When I say “perhaps well-meaning but overbearing father,” I mean that his father would prefer him to be more outgoing and athletic like his older brother, Gaetan, and participate in activities like playing on the football team.
His father wants what he thinks is the best for Aubrey, but Aubrey is not like his older brother, and his father doesn’t want to accept that. He even accuses Aubrey, one night when a ghostly intruder invades Audrey’s room, of being on drugs and possibly taking his mother’s pills. Aubrey denies this, as he didn’t take his mom’s pills or any drugs at all, but his father seems unwilling to believe him. Of course, parents should be concerned if their kids start acting differently than they usually have acted, but Aubrey’s father seemed to me to be kind of a jerk.
Fortunately, Aubrey has a couple of good friends to help ease his far from pleasant high school experience: Buzz Reiselstein and Rodriqa Auerbach. Buzz is paunchy but generally optimistic, trying to see the bright side of things. He’s very intelligent, and inventive, and many of his inventions play key and sometimes humorous roles in this novel. Rodriqa’s dad works at the Lake Julian dam, and she is an interesting character who instigates a budding friendship and perhaps romance with a new girl, Jordana. The cute, glasses-wearing Jordan is also a major character in The Last Seer. She also suffers from nightmare-induced insomnia and initially has a difficult time fitting in, like Aubrey. Her mother has mysteriously died, and she lives with her father, who has been horribly disfigured by being in some sort of accident.