Study Guide

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer Themes

By Lish McBride

  • Friendship

    Maybe it seems weird that a book that largely centers around blood, guts, and black magic has friendship as one of its primary themes, but at its core, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is totally about relationships and how tough circumstances can cause best buddies to band together.

    Think about it: Finding out that one of your best friends can raise the dead would probably scare most people off. And finding out that another one of them was murdered and is now a reanimated head would most likely be worse. Nonetheless, Sam, Ramon, Brooke, and Frank spend this whole absurd adventure completely solid in their friendship. Go team.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. How would you describe the main characters' friendship? What makes them so tight?
    2. Why is a fast food restaurant a good setting for the inciting incident of the story?
    3. What does the book reveal about what it means to lose a friend or experience grief?
    4. How do Sam and his friends change as a result of this experience?

    Chew on This

    Besides Sam's dealings with Douglas, each of his friends spends the story battling internal conflicts of their own—this is a major thing they have in common.

    While he's not the main character, Ramon experiences an intense amount of character growth, all prompted by his loyalty as a friend.

  • Strength and Skill

    What could give a story more tension than two necromancers battling to the death for control and power? Indeed, Douglas's desire to steal Sam's power and Sam's need to defeat him set up a classic protagonist antagonist relationship in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

    More than this, though, Sam cultivating his skills as a necromancer and eventually having them spring into full-blown action is a key part of his journey in this book. To speak in Star Wars vernacular, Sam definitely learns to use the force, though we're not sure if necromancy's inherent darkness makes him Luke or Anakin Skywalker. Maybe that's something you can determine as we explore the evolution of Sam's power.

    Questions About Strength and Skill

    1. How does Douglas underestimate Sam's powers?
    2. Does Nick and Tia's decision to bind Sam help or hurt him?
    3. How does discovering Sam's true power change Douglas's motivations?
    4. Which Star Wars character is Sam, anyway? Is he Luke? Is he Vader? Will he go to the Dark Side or is he there already? What are your thoughts on this?

    Chew on This

    Douglas's skill as a necromancer isn't what makes him evil—it's how he chooses to us this strength.

    Seeing the full extent of his gift is what ultimately makes Sam accept who he really is.

  • Good vs. Evil

    Our culture is full of classic tales where the forces of good clash with the bad intentions of villains. And in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, as Sam struggles to protect his family and friends from destruction as Douglas sets out to destroy Sam at all costs, we find ourselves with another addition to the library of Good Versus Evil stories. In an interesting twist, though, the folks on both sides of this fight are necromancers. We don't know about you, but we generally think of dudes who can raise the dead as pretty evil—but Sam forces us to reconsider this.

    Questions About Good vs. Evil

    1. Is there anything sympathetic in Douglas as a villain? Or is he just pure evil?
    2. How does Sam compare and contrast with other heroes in similar stories?
    3. What specific factors motivate Sam to want to destroy Douglas? Are they all good? Or is a bit of a mixed bag?
    4. Will Sam succeed in his desire to use his power for good in the future? Or, will he get drunk on it and abuse it like Douglas did?

    Chew on This

    Brooke's murder, along with Douglas's threats against his friends and family, give Sam the motivation he needs to go after Douglas. His motives, in other words, are pure.

    Without his experience at his cousin's funeral and subsequent alliance with Aunt Lynn, Douglas might have ended up being a pretty decent guy.

  • Mortality

    You better believe that a book called Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is going to have death out the wazoo. Sure, there are some epic death scenes and awesome appearances by zombies and other members of the undead, but mortality in this story is much more than that. It's also about how Sam and his friends deal with death when it makes a very real and horrifying appearance on their doorsteps. Sam's gift, Brooke's murder, and Ramon's ultimate decision to stare death in the face as a means of saving his friend all reveal just how much death can infiltrate life.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. How does McBride use humor to portray the concept of death? Did you find it amusing or not?
    2. How are Douglas and Lilly's experiences as child necromancing prodigies similar and different?
    3. How does Sam's defeat of Douglas bring peace to both himself and others? How does it not?
    4. Death is typically something that people fear and ask a lot of questions about. How would being a necromancer change Sam's view of mortality?

    Chew on This

    Without its darkly comic slant on death, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer would just be another average paranormal novel.

    Sam's identity as a necromancer causes him to see death from a new perspective most humans don't get to see.

  • Tradition and Customs

    In a book populated by necromancers, werewolves, and a slew of paranormal species, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer takes the concept of social customs, order, and rituals to a whole new level. The detail McBride gives to the world of these characters is one element that makes the setting and characters so believable, even in the midst of being completely fantastical as well. After all, who knew that werewolves had a hierarchy that doesn't necessarily stem from physical strength, or that vampires are seriously misrepresented in literature? Not us, that's for sure.

    Questions About Tradition and Customs

    1. How do the rituals and behaviors of the paranormal creatures give us insight into their culture and lifestyle?
    2. What traditions are particular to the necromancer culture? The werewolves?
    3. What's the significance of the Council? How does the scene at the meeting teach us about the paranormal world?

    Chew on This

    Tia's need to hide her identity as a witch plays a role in her to decision to keep Sam's true identity from him.

    Descriptions of the customs and rituals of the paranormal world serve to humanize an often demonized group of characters.

  • The Supernatural

    In case you haven't caught on, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer isn't exactly a realistic work of fiction. Well, unless we're wrong and werewolves, vampires, and necromancers are actually real. Either way, the novel paints a vivid picture of a world where these creatures lurk in the shadows of seemingly normal American cities. Sam may be going about his life as normal at the beginning of the story, but once he's seen a few zombies, disembodied heads, and talking cats that can transform into tiny flying dragons, he becomes pretty sure life as he knows it will never be the same again.

    Questions About The Supernatural

    1. How does McBride subvert our expectations and previous views of the supernatural? How does it affect the way we read the story?
    2. Why does the supernatural world coexist with the real world Sam inhabits? How does this heighten tension in the story?
    3. What's Sam's general reaction to the bizarre things he witnesses throughout the story? Why? Does it change in any significant way?

    Chew on This

    More than anything, this book humanizes the supernatural.

    Sam's encounters with the supernatural help him redefine the way he views his environment and relationships.

  • Fate and Free Will

    Like a lot of twenty-somethings, Sam isn't super focused on the idea of destiny. He's a college dropout with no particular interest in anything when we first meet him in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and our guess is that if Douglas hadn't showed up, Sam would have probably just stayed that way. Instead, though, it becomes clear that fate has much grander plans in store for Sam that flipping burgers the rest of his life. When destiny and the world of the supernatural collide, Sam learns he has no choice but to yield his own power and accept his fate.

    Questions About Fate and Free Will

    1. How does Sam's experience throughout the book illustrate that he's destined to be a necromancer?
    2. Does Kevin's lack of acceptance of who Tia is play a role in her decision to bind Sam? Or is it mostly about Douglas being a super dangerous guy?
    3. How does Sam's fate as a necromancer relate to the theme of identity? To dig deep, be sure to check out our thoughts on identity elsewhere in this section.
    4. Sam's the main character, so his fate is the one most at stake in the book, but what about the other characters? Does anyone else struggle with acceptance over their futures?

    Chew on This

    Tia's failed attempts to bind Sam are meant to keep him from experiencing adversity more than to protect him from Douglas.

    Sam can only achieve a sense of direction in his life by accepting that he is fated to be a necromancer.

  • Identity

    Like most guys his age, Sam is just biding his time waiting to find his calling—until the day it drops into his life like an anvil in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Most twenty-year-olds look forward to finally finding the perfect college major, meeting the perfect person, or finding the perfect career. By contrast, Sam's calling finds him—and it's not what he expects.

    Like non-necromancers, though, once Sam experiences the full force of his power, everything that previously made him feel isolated from the world is stripped away. Like a kid who finally realizes they want to go to med school, Sam eventually finds himself… as well as the undead and a bounty of supernatural entities. But so it goes in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

    Questions About Identity

    1. How does Sam feel about his position in life at the beginning of the book? Is he satisfied as a Plumpy's employee? Why or why not?
    2. How does Sam's acceptance of his identity change throughout the story? What causes these changes?
    3. How does experiencing the full strength of his powers at the end of the book cause Sam to see himself differently?

    Chew on This

    Kevin's rejection of Tia and Sam does such severe damage to Sam because of his inherent rejection of the necromancy gene in their family.

    Killing Douglas causes Sam to completely understand the importance of necromancy to who he is.

  • Manipulation

    In Hold Me Closer, Necromancer power can do two things to a person: make him into a great leader, or completely ruin him when it comes to ethical behavior. Douglas is definitely a textbook picture of the latter—he's willing to kill, steal, lie, and just about anything else you can imagine to make sure no one steps on his authority. Sam, however, learns to control the previously uncontrollable, including the realm between life and death and the dead themselves—and for him, manipulating these elements just comes with the territory of being a necromancer.

    For Douglas, his power is a means of self-protection, self-promotion, and all around evil. For Sam, his power is just part of being alive, something he has to figure out how to use best in order to have a good life with his friends.

    Questions About Manipulation

    1. How does Douglas rationalize his manipulation of others? What is his ultimate goal? Is there such a thing as enough when it comes to power for Douglas?
    2. Which characters are manipulating each other throughout the book? What are their tactics?
    3. How does Sam use his experiences in Douglas's dungeon to gain control of his power?
    4. Why does Douglas fly off the handle when Sam raises Ed? What's the big deal?

    Chew on This

    Douglas's cold, calculating nature is what makes his gift dangerous, not the gift itself.

    When Sam gains full control of his powers, he proves to Douglas that he can no longer be manipulated.

  • Violence

    Hold Me Closer, Necromancer features a whole lot of death, and by extension, a whole lot of violence. These acts of cruelty run the gamut from parking lot assaults to wrist-slitting to decapitation to knife attacks, and as you might expect, there's tons of blood and gore along the way. We wish we could say that it's not as bad as it sounds, but it comes with the territory of a book about dudes raising people from the dead, and is part of what makes the world of this horror novel as realistic as it is. Pro tip: Read this book on an empty stomach.

    Questions About Violence

    1. What did you think of the portrayal of violence in this book? Was it more or less graphic than you expected?
    2. Do you think the book's more graphic imagery serves a purpose in the story, or is it purely sensationalistic?
    3. If you were to give this book a content rating based on the violence content, what would it be? Why?
    4. What purposes does blood serve throughout the story?

    Chew on This

    While many scenes are tough to look at, the book's world wouldn't be as vivid and realistic without its portrayal of violence.

    While Michael sees violence as a necessary prospect to accomplish a purpose, Douglas sees it as a tool to be carefully used.