First Lines: The gypsy fortune-teller at the Halloween carnival predicts I’ll have a long life full of possibilities. Of course, that’s right before she uses me as a human shield to avoid the outstretched hand of a black-cloak-clad, sickle-weilding Grim Reaper and then flees hysterically from the tent. Really, if you think about it, that makes her a liar and a murderer. I better get a refund.
This was a book I saw at the library a couple of times and finally grabbed in early October. (Dude, I had this at my house for weeks before reading it.) It looked sarcastic and funny while still being about death (which I wanted leading up to Halloween), so even though I’d never heard of it, I grabbed it.
Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants, from the position on the cheer squad to the Hot Guy. So when a Grim Reaper snags her soul on accident, well, somebody better figure out how to return her to life or heads will roll. But during her fight for life, she finds herself as nothing more than a piece in a millennia-old fight between an archangel and Death himself. And they give her a choice: remain in the lobby where souls are processed until her time is actually up or relive three moments of her life to make better choices that makes her life worth saving. Total no-brainer. Should be easy to make these changes, right? But each change unravels the life of Queen Bee RJ had built until she’s little more than a social outcast. If going back to life means sixty years of being an outcast, is that worth it to RJ?
It was so good. I’d call it a cross between A Christmas Carol, the Adam Sandler movie Click, and Before I Fall.
I knew from the first paragraph that I was going to like RJ (as you can see above). Sarcastic, witty, and arrogant, RJ doesn’t let a single slight pass her by. And with the injustice of being reaped before her time, she’s especially not going to take any crap. So I really enjoyed that.
But it’s more than just sarcasm. RJ makes a lot of terrible choices in her life that she has to atone for. So while it starts off incredibly funny and sarcastic, by the end you are going to need a box of tissues. Which is why I’m so drawn to these kinds of stories. Because it’s not about what you have in your life but how you lived it, and that’s what these stories are always so good at showing.
The portrayal of what the Afterlife looks like (and many of the people usually associated with the Afterlife, like Death himself and St. Peter) is unique, interesting, funny, and novel. It tends to blend various religions from around the world with versions of life as we’re used to it. Like all souls must wait in the Lobby until their name is called. Much like a doctor’s waiting room.
It’s been a few weeks since I read this (y’all have met me right? I’m pretty bad about posting these in a timely manner, especially around the holidays), but I still remember the very interesting cast of characters. They stick with you, from the characters she befriends along the way, the quirky holy beings (Death is a surfer, St. Peter plays Cornhole, etc.), to the ones who will break your heart. I look back on this book pretty fondly.
This is why I sometimes really like pulling off random books I’ve never heard of off the shelves at the library. You truly never know what you’re going to find.
This was really moving. Sure, it’s irreverent and potentially blasphemous at times depending on your perspective, but it really hits some truths about how we should be as people. It was cute and deep at the same time.