Layoverland

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Layoverland Book Poster Image
Teen searches for truth in funny, poignant afterlife story.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A couple of classroom discussions about birth control and how it works, and abstinence and adoption as alternatives to abortion.

Positive Messages

You can't protect yourself from hurt by keeping your guard up at all times and being mean to push people away. That strategy can't last forever and won't work every time anyway; it will just isolate you and you'll end up alone. Opening up brings the risk of hurt, but it also brings a lot of beauty and joy to yourself and those you care about. Don't be too quick to judge, and don't take action until you know the full story. If you love someone you have to let them go if the timing isn't right, and hope that when you're both ready your relationship will be what it's meant to be. If you've hurt people or caused them harm, you'll only be able to move forward if you make up for what you've done.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Beatrice, 17, is petty, vindictive, stubborn, and thinks she's always right. She's built a wall around herself and refuses to let anyone in except her younger sister. She's also extremely loyal to and protective of her sister, and her reasons for being so mean all the time are understandable: She's got some unresolved grief. Caleb is the ideal love interest who always does everything right, even when Bea tries to push him away. He wanted to get into Harvard and so was academically driven to doing as much as he possibly could. Other characters provide comic relief and opportunities for Bea to react to and/or learn from.

Violence

The plot is centered on a violent car crash that kills two teens, and trying to find the cause of the crash. The crash itself is described a couple of times without any gore. Parental loss is explored, but not in depth, via Beatrice's mother, who was killed by a drunk driver when Bea was 5. There's some verbal hostility, "queen bee" behavior, and verbal sexual harassment that a teen retaliates for by throwing food and beverages on the perpetrator.

Sex

Several instances of kissing and caressing, one described in some detail with tongue. A memory is retold of seeing a girl and boy in a bathtub at a party; the boy has his pants down and the girl is poised to perform an unspecified sexual act. A teen reveals she had an abortion. Classroom discussions of birth control and how it works, Planned Parenthood, abstinence, and adoption. "Blow job" mentioned. Brief discussion of periods.

Language

"Bitch," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "crap," "holy crap," "bulls--t," "hell," "AF," "ass," "asshole," and "butt."

Consumerism

Lots of food and beverage, car, tech, popular culture, clothing, and beauty product brands mentioned, mostly to establish mood and character. Oxycontin mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Caleb drinks a large whiskey very quickly when he's upset and promptly throws it up. Mention of a restaurant hostess getting free tequila shots for her teen friends. Reference to high-schoolers smoking weed. Brief mention that people buy and sell Oxycontin.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Layoverland is a darkly funny coming-of-age story set in an imagined, in-between afterlife where the deceased await their chance to get into heaven. There's some brief philosophical and spiritual talk about the afterlife in general, what heaven and eternity are like, etc., but religion isn't specifically addressed beyond the traditional Christian heaven-purgatory-hell structure. The story's really about 17-year-old Beatrice's search for the truth about her death in a car crash, her "post-life" romance, and learning to see how her behavior and actions affect others. Parental loss is briefly explored via Beatrice's mother, who was killed by a drunk driver when Bea was 5. There are a few kisses described, including one with some detail about tongues. A couple in a bathtub at a party are discovered as they're about to start an unspecified sex act, with mention that the girl has all her clothes on and the boy's pants are pulled down. Teens talk about birth control, abortion (one teen reveals she had one), Planned Parenthood, abstinence, and adoption. Strong language includes "s--t," "motherf--ker," "bitch," and more. Lots of food for thought about the afterlife, eternity, love, friendship, atonement, family, and seeing ourselves as we really are.

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What's the story?

Beatrice, 17, finds herself in LAYOVERLAND after a fatal car crash. Layoverland is an aiport-like purgatory where the deceased wait for their chance to work through whatever's holding them back from getting into heaven in the first place. Bea's been chosen to be one of the memory guides who help people understand what they need to in order to move on out of there, precisely because helping people is something she rarely did in life. When she's accidentally assigned to help the very person who caused the crash that took her life, Bea's thrown into a tailspin. On the one hand, she wants to prolong Caleb's time in Purgatory and make him as miserable as possible in payback for her own death. On the other hand she wants to know the truth about how or why Caleb caused the crash, at the risk of a revelation about it helping him to get into heaven. Things really get complicated as she starts to realize that she kind of likes Caleb, maybe even more than likes. As her feelings for Caleb grow and change, Bea will have to grapple with life, death, love, hate, hurt, and healing. And only 4,997 more souls to go.

Is it any good?

This dark but very funny novel takes on a lot of life's (and death's) big issues, without getting bogged down in heavy-handed, overly dramatic emotion. Bea's wry, sarcastic but very believable voice gives Layoverland a refreshing counterpoint to digging deep into life, death, love, friendship, family, and, of course, what happens at the end of our time on earth. As does the fact that she's actually not a very good person. But fist-time author Gabby Noone expertly tempers Bea's shortcomings by giving readers the ability to understand and empathize with Bea, and root for her as she starts to see herself and her choices in a new light.

Piecing together the story of the crash by going back and forth between Bea's and Caleb's stories, both leading up to the crash and in Layoverland itself, keep the pages of the well-structured plot turning. There's a certain amount of predictability when it comes to the romance, but the bittersweet ending doesn't just focus on that. A simple act of kindness toward a friend may just have you reaching for a tissue.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the strong language in Layoverland. Is it realistic? What's the big deal? Is reading those words different from hearing them on movies, videos, TV, etc.? What about reading them in texts and on social media?

  • What are some of your strongest takeaways from this book? Do you relate to what Bea learns about herself and her life?

  • Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, how do you picture it? What can reading other ideas and visions about the afterlife teach us about ourselves and our world?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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