From the opening line, “Dead bodies are the worst”, you just know you’re in for a good time with this book. Fovea Munson is the 12-year-old daughter of two doctors: cadaver surgeons. They operate on dead folks, and they teach medical students how to work their craft on dead folks. They’ve got the corniest senses of humor, a never-ending love for Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and they’ve just hired Fovea to be their receptionist for the summer. This is bad enough for a 12-year-old who’s already feeling tragically uncool, but wait: three heads in the cadaver lab start talking to her. Death isn’t necessarily final, after all, and Lake, McMullen, and Andy – the three heads in question – want to start a barbershop quartet, hit a recording studio, and have a release party, and it’s up to Fovea to make it happen. Quickly. Because that receptionist that quit left a lovesick, slightly unhinged cremator, behind, and he’s got information that will ruin Fovea’s family. The heads know something, so it’s a little quid pro quo in action.
Is this madcap? Absolutely! Is it hilarious? Without question! Fovea narrates this laugh-out-loud story of a summer vacation gone sideways with a priceless, put-upon tween voice as she navigates her relationship with her parents, her friends (both dead and living), and her scooter-riding grandmother. There’s an unexpected amount of pathos here as Fovea comes to care for a classmate and the trio of cadaver heads in her care, and a bittersweet realization that some friendships aren’t meant to last. There are black and white illustrations throughout, adding some visual humor to the story, and chapters titles remind us how much Hippocrates has influenced Fovea’s life. The end of the book leaves me hopeful that we’ll get some more fun with Fovea down the road, and an appendix (snicker) includes amusing little in-jokes that readers will get a kick out of.
The Mortification of Fovea Munson is a perfect summer read, especially for kids who think their parents are weird (which is, honestly, most of ’em). Don’t miss it. Add it to your STEM reading – cadavers science is a thing!