A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Life After Death features drinking, sex, thievery -- and a dead character who is haunting Jeff's high school as a mean ghost. But Jeff's really trying to be a good person throughout the book: He talks openly to his parents (even about uncomfortable topics like birth control), apologizes to his girlfriend after they fight, and learns to empathize with ghost Kimberlee, who's trying to work through her "unfinished business" so she can move on from Earth. Motivated parents can use this book to talk about popularity in high school and ask kids whether a cruel person like Kimberlee would ever rise to the top at their school.
What's the story?
When Jeff begins attending an exclusive private school in California, he meets beautiful Kimberlee, who is rich, spoiled -- and dead. Since he is the only one who can see her, he begins to help her with her \"unfinished business\" so she can move on from Earth. Kimberlee thinks this means returning boxes and boxes of random stuff she stole from stores, friends and even teachers when she was alive. But as Jeff unearths more secrets from Kimberly and his new classmates, he realizes the mission is more complicated than he thought.
Is it any good?
Private school, new student, rich kids, secrets, a ghost -- the author creates a scintillating premise here, and yet her book is mostly appealing because of her nerdy narrator with a heart of gold. It's easy to be on Jeff's side, even when he makes mistakes or actually breaks the law. That's because he's always motivated by a greater good, such as helping Kimberlee or trying to be a good boyfriend to Sera. At least he's quick to apologize when he messes up.
Readers may not buy all the plot points (for example, Jeff's girlfriend's deep dark secret about why she really hates Kimberlee feels too small when it's finally revealed). But even though this book is based on a fantasy premise, it's got plenty of important reality-based messages to impart about kindness, trust, and redemption. Readers will be moved as Jeff in particular tries to do the right thing, even when he has to do something hard or sacrifice himself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about popularity. Kimberlee is very mean to other students, but ruled the school when she was alive. Does that seem realistic to you? What makes someone popular at your school?
What do you think of the fantasy elements in this book? What's intriguing about "unfinished business"? Can you think of other books or movies that play with this idea?
Would someone at your school who went to rehab like Jeff's girlfriend be able to reinvent themselves? Is it possible to leave a bad reputation behind? Should it be?
For kids who love Coming-of-age stories
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