A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Could lead to some good discussions about high school and what makes someone popular (even when they're mean). Parents can also talk to their kids about fixing a bad reputation -- and if that's possible in their own schools.
The overall message here is about redemption -- about the possibility of becoming a better person through being honest, apologizing, and trusting those you love.
Positive Role Models
Jeff's really trying to do the right thing throughout Life After Theft, though he often gets in trouble with the school principal and even the police. When he makes a mistake he apologizes. He also tells Kimberlee," Getting caught isn't what makes something wrong."
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Jeff's mom got pregnant with him by accident in high school, but she and her husband are still married (and sneak off for romantic weekends together). Kimberlee tells Jeff that his new girlfriend had sex with a lot of guys during her freshman year. After Jeff and his girlfriend have sex, he and his parents have a frank discussion in which he tells them, "You taught me to wait for the right time and the right person and then to use protection and not leave my life up to chance."
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Swear words are used rarely, but include "s--t" and "ass."
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Products & Purchases
JELL-O as used with alcohol to make JELL-O shots; Jagermeister.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
At a party, Jeff drinks beer and does JELL-O shots. He throws up and has a hangover the next day. His crush drives him home, revealing that the same guys who invited him to the party also got her drunk once on shots of Jagermeister. Jeff later learns that she also did drugs, including cocaine and heroine. She went to rehab after a friend died of a drug overdose.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.