A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is more of a mystery about how a teen girl and her boyfriend die and less about questions of morality or religious discussions of life after death. The mystery is solved in the end and it's somewhat upsetting but not graphically described like the book The Lovely Bones. Though swearing includes "f--k," it's infrequent and not gratuitous.
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What's the story?
Seventeen-year-old Maddy knows she's dead, but she doesn't know why or how, or what happens next. She finds objects she lost throughout her life that act as portals back to the moment she lost each one, allowing her to revisit her life repeatedly, trying to find answers and change the past. She finds some clues in these flashbacks when she replays her first kiss, a middle school slumber party, and a fight with her boyfriend. We meet her boyfriend Gabe and his alcoholic father, her pregnant sister, and her best friend Sandra who is emotionally abused and controlled by her mentally unstable mother. Those lost objects sometimes allow her to alter the past, but once she finds out more about how she died, and understands more about the Everafter, she has to make one more surprising decision about her life.
Is it any good?
This is another teen novel written from the perspective of the dead girl; its structure is confusing and there are many plot lines involved, so it's difficult to really know or mourn the characters. Teen readers will enjoy the romance, and relate to the family dynamics of Maddy, and also the romance between Maddy and Gabe. Readers who like ghost stories will also enjoy this book. Most of the characters have secrets, including the ghosts,and those become more compelling than the mystery of what happens in the afterlife. There is a lot of discussion of poetry by Emily Dickinson, instead of any discussion of religion(s).
The book can't seem to decide if it's a murder mystery or a philosophical discussion, but there are plenty of young adult issues (sibling rivalry, emotional abuse, first romance, etc.) to keep teen readers involved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the saddest part of this book is. Was it meant to be sad?
Did Maddy ignore clues about her best friend's home life? Who could you talk to if you had a friend who was in danger? How could you help your friend?
What do you think about life after death? Is there an afterlife?
Why was Maddy so insecure in her relationship with her boyfriend? Was she insecure about anything else?
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