Life After Theft

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Life After Theft Book Poster Image
Ghost story with a lot of heart.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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."


One of the main characters in the book is dead after drowning in the ocean. When Kimberlee was alive she bullied another girl.


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."


Swear words are used rarely, but include "s--t" and "ass."


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.

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.

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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?

Book details

  • Author: Aprilynne Pike
  • Genre: Coming of Age
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publication date: April 30, 2012
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
  • Number of pages: 352
  • Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: June 20, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Coming-of-age stories

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