Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Reviews on a Theme: Afterlife Books

At the tail end of this year, I read a bunch of books with the common theme of being set in the afterlife, so I thought I'd review them all together + give a shout-out to a few others that fit the category.

You might remember that LEVEL 2 is also set in the afterlife, so it was fascinating for me from a writerly point of view to see these other afterlife visions.

EVERLOST by Neal Schusterman (Simon & Schuster, 2006)
My editor at Simon & Schuster sent me this one as an example of excellent world building, and after reading it, I fully agree with her assessment.  It's the story of Allie and Nick, two teens who die in a car accident and meet for the first time in Everlost - a place where the souls of some children (and objects) end up if they don't go into the light for some reason.  As Allie and Nick try to make sense of their new environment, they meet Mary Hightower (Queen of afterlights), the fearsome monster MacGill, and more colorful characters.

Although there were some ultra depressing thoughts here (souls of some children sink to the center of the Earth and wait, trapped, for the end of time), I loved the creative elements to Everlost and how everything logically came together.  Highly recommended!  Find out more about EVERLOST at Goodreads. (FTC disclosure: gift)

HERE LIES BRIDGET by Paige Harbison (Harlequin Teen, 2011)
What do you do when the five people you meet in limbo all want you to go to hell?  The meanest of the mean girls, Bridget, finds her rule slipping when a new girl shows up at school.

This reminded me of A CHRISTMAS CAROL in that a hugely unlikeable character (I guarantee you will hate Bridget) gets to see how she affects others and may have a chance to change for the better. This one didn't have a lot to say about the afterlife, but was more focused on character revelation. How much you will like this one may depend on if you can stomach Bridget's nastiness and pettiness.   Find out more about HERE LIES BRIDGET at Goodreads. (FTC disclosure: review copy)

BETWEEN by Jessica Warman (Bloomsbury, 2011)
Pretty, popular Elizabeth wakes up the morning of her 18th birthday to discover she's dead.  She meets Alex, an unpopular teen from school who died before her, and he helps her come to terms with her death and life as well as to find her killer.

Despite guessing the ending of this murder mystery very early on, I still found some of the twists and turns surprising and the story kept me interested.  Elizabeth grows on you as a character and even manages to garner a good bit of sympathy. As far as world building, this one sticks close to Earth, and the afterlife rules are fairly standard.  Find out more about BETWEEN at Goodreads. (FTC disclosure: bought)

MY BEATING TEENAGE HEART by C.K. Kelly Martin (Random House, 2011)
Though she has no memory, Ashlyn figures that since she has no physical form, she must be dead.  Somehow linked to grieving teen Breckon, Ashlyn gradually regains her memories (starting from birth, in chronological order) as she watches him slowly sink into despair.  

This is a very raw look at grief and death. Ashlyn witnesses many of Breckon's intimate moments - some of which may make more sensitive readers very uncomfortable (and may make you paranoid that ghosts are watching you shower, etc).  I wondered throughout what Ashlyn's connection was to Breckon, and though the reveal was pretty mundane at face value, the implications made the last two chapters especially heartbreaking and powerful. Find out more about MY BEATING TEENAGE HEART at Goodreads. (FTC disclosure: bought)

THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg (Penguin, 2012)
When Brie dies from a broken heart (literally), she must pass through the five stages of grief with the help of spirit guide Patrick in order to move on.

I'm not going to say a lot about this now because I'll be featuring it on Apocalypsies Love in late January, but WOW.  This inventive, imaginative debut took me on an emotional roller coaster of the best kind. Brie is funny, sweet and also seriously frustrating and achingly real.  There were so many fun afterlife world building elements here, and though I was never 100% sure of the rules for the D&G (dead and gone), I highly enjoyed the experience.  Find out more about TCHOYAM at Goodreads. (FTC disclosure: review copy)

Some other afterlife books I've reviewed:

DEAD RULES by Randy Russell (HarperCollins, 2011) 
"On the surface, this is a wickedly funny story of Jana’s obsession interspersed with anecdotes of the other students about their deaths (all very bizarre – involving lawn darts, birds and drunken uncles). But there is so much tragedy underneath the hijinks as Jana is revealed as a terminally lonely soul who doesn’t understand her own worth." Read my entire review. Add DEAD RULES to Goodreads.

THE EVERAFTER by Amy Huntley (HarperCollins, 2009)
"Madison visits seemingly random scenes from her life, but they all fit together like a puzzle to help her (and us) solve the mystery of her death - leading to a surprising and bittersweet ending that really packs a punch." Read my entire review. Add THE EVERAFTER to Goodreads.

THE FETCH by Laura Whitcomb (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)
"Whitcomb’s vision of the afterlife is never completely revealed since these scenes are all through Calder’s eyes and he seems to have missed the official employee memo about a lot of the specifics, such as what exactly hell is, but what we do see is certainly thought provoking." Read my entire review. Add THE FETCH to Goodreads.

Some afterlife books I'm looking forward to reading:

TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini (Simon & Schuster, 2012)
When Elliot dies for the third time, she knows this is her last shot. There are no fourth-timers in this afterlife, so one more chance is all she has to get things right. But before she can move on to her next life, Elliot will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

DEVINE INTERVENTION by Martha Brockenbrough (Scholastic, 2012)
Jerome is not the best guardian angel - he lets Heidi drown. Neither realizes that Heidi has only 24 hours before her soul dissolves forever. And that might not be enough time for them to figure out how they were meant to live.

(No cover yet)

VELVETEEN by Daniel Marks (Random House, 2012)
Velvet Monroe won’t be “resting in peace” until her killer is either behind bars, catatonic, or 6-feet-under. Somewhere between Beetlejuice and Jennifer’s Body, this dark debut introduces a vibrant and violent new heroine (and hero). Readers will be breathless for more of its quirky blend of horror, humor, and one twisted romance.

ELSEWHERE by Gabrielle Zevin (FSG, 2005)
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth.

What are you favorite afterlife recommendations?


bermudaonion said...

I don't think I have any afterlife recommendations - it sounds like Everlost is the one to look for.

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Thanks! I just put a ton of these on my TBR list-Yeah, I love reading all about the afterlife too. I am absolutely dying to get my hands on Level 2!!!! Thanks so much for giving TOUCING THE SURFACE a shout out!!!! <3

Pam said...

Everlost is SO good. I cannot wait to get my grubby paws on Velveteen.

Zibilee said...

I have never read about this subject before in YA, but it seems that there are a lot of books out there that fit into this category! I have added a whole heap of them into my list, and I even discovered that I have a few of them here waiting for me! A very comprehensive and interesting list, and I shall be on the lookout for them!

Happy New Year,Lenore!

Book Angel Emma said...

Fab list thank you adding it to the list for a library presentation