Once Dead, Twice Shy: Madison Avery, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Once Dead, Twice Shy: Madison Avery, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Supernatural story without too much violence.

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A lot or a little?

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


Some fantasy violence, a car accident in which a girl is killed but comes back to life, reapers take the lives of humans, a water-skiing accident with injury.


Some mentions of kissing.


"Bitch" and "ass" used.


A sneaker brand is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is pretty mild for a young adult novel -- a bit of moderate cursing, some mild fantasy violence, and a car accident in which the main character is (sort of) killed. Some parents who have firm religious ideas about the afterlife may find this offensive.

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What's the story?

Madison was killed in a car wreck caused by an anti-free-will dark reaper who wanted to prevent something in her future. But \ before she died she grabbed his amulet, which allows her to continue as \ if she is living but draws the wrath of the reaper and his minions who \ want to complete her death and get back the amulet. Protected by a \ Guardian Angel and the light reaper, she struggles to survive and to \ learn to control the amulet. But there's more going on here than any \ of them realize, and Madison may have a role to play in the politics \ of the afterlife.

Is it any good?

Author Kim Harrison has a talent for keeping the action flying along without resorting to the kind of grim and gruesome violence typical of teen urban fantasies. She does this with a light touch, original ideas, a complex plot with an even more complex back story, and nearly nonstop action and suspense. In between readers will find a delightfully snarky Guardian Angel, a mix of high school and afterlife politics, and some interesting ideas about the nature of life, death, and reality.

This is another example of a book betrayed by its cover. The picture shows a heavily made-up platinum blonde girl, with an ornate title on a pink background. Take the paper cover off and you find a pink wing embossed on the hardcover. It practically screams, "This book is just for girls!" But the story itself would be enjoyable for anyone who likes a light and exciting fantasy, with plenty of humor and action. It's a shame that probably only half of its potential audience will ever open it up to see what's inside.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the afterlife. Major religions and many stories, including this one, present ideas about the afterlife. What do you think of this one?

  • Is it anything like others you have heard or read about?

  • Is it anything like the way you think it will be? Is there any way to know?

  • The idea of hierarchies of higher and lower beings is not new -- why is that idea so common?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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