Michael J Bowler
Leonardo Cantrell is a painfully shy sixteen-year-old who cannot look people in the eye. One night while he’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, an old man forces eye contact and gives Leo the power to see Death.
His best, and only, friend—J.C. Rivera—thinks this new power is cool until Leo accidentally looks into J.C.’s eyes and “sees” his murder, a murder that will occur in less than two weeks. Stunned and shaken, the two boys sift through clues in Leo’s “vision” in a desperate effort to find the killer and stop him before he can strike.
Aided by feisty new-girl-at-school, Laura, the boys uncover evidence suggesting the identity of the murderer. However, their plan to trap the would-be killer goes horribly awry and reveals a truth that could kill them all.
After lunch, we head to a nearby McDonald’s and buy bags of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries to give out on the streets. I make momentary eye contact with each person I hand a bag to because I want them to know they’re human like me. But I can’t hold it for more than a second until, beneath the dim shade of the freeway overpass on Main Street, this one man grasps my arm as he takes his bag. He’s a regular named Hank, an older guy with a limp who always wears a dirty Dodgers cap and mismatched clothes I’m sure he found in a dumpster.
“Thank you, Leo.” Hank’s voice is strained, but sincere.
I force myself to look into his grateful eyes and our gazes lock. I can’t seem to look away. It’s like I’m being drawn into Hank’s very soul. Then I see it! Gasping, I lurch back and yank my arm away from him.
He recoils, looking stung by my action, and I want to apologize, but no words come. I’m paralyzed by what I just saw and can only offer him a silent nod.
Gripping the bag with gnarled fingers, Hank lurches down Main Street until he reaches the corner and turns out of sight.
J.C. steps around in front of me. “Hey, Leo, you okay? You look like you saw a ghost.”
“I know… when he’s… going to… die.” I barely get the words out.
J.C. stares at me. “Huh?”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities. When Michael is not writing, you can find him volunteering as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and raising his newly adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, and hopes his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.
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I Know When You’re Going to Die by Michael J. Bowler follows sixteen-year-old Leonardo (Leo) Cantrell as he navigates life more interested in serving the less fortunate than keeping up with the latest fashion trends. An unexpected “gift” results in his being able to foretell a person’s death after looking into their eyes. Facing bullies at school and trying to come to terms with his newfound power, Leo must discover a way to change the outcome of his visions or risk losing his best friend permanently.
This young adult story provides a unique twist on the angst of teen existence as Leo battles not only peer pressure, bullying, entitlement, abandonment, and discriminatory behavior, but also has to deal with the horrendous responsibility conferred upon him by an elderly man. The story is told in first person point of view in the present tense, so it was a little challenging for me to get used to at first, but eventually I became caught up in the action. One of the things I was fascinated by was the glimpse of my city through Leo’s eyes. Of course, I have never traveled in those “entitled” circles, but I have definitely driven down some of the streets mentioned, so it was fun to read about the kids’ adventures in familiar areas.
I like the thought-provoking question of cause and effect and the twists and turns of Leo’s adventures, but I would have liked to have a little more depth to the characters. Those who are squeamish should be warned that there is a bit of carnage and death in the story, plus some spookiness, but the action escalates and keeps one enthralled and cheering for the good guys to win.
A copy of this story was provided for review