January 23, 2015

A Reader's Quirks #4: You, Irresistible Afterlife Novel

I'm back with a new installment of my random feature about the who, what, where, when and why of reading, where I talk about my own relationship with books/genres/authors, and ask my visitors to do the same if they feel so inclined. This could have been easily turned into a meme, but there's a reason why it didn't...I still don't see myself as an established enough blogger to host yet another meme. Even those with an impressive number of followers aren't necessarily overwhelmed with participation, so I'm not going there just yet. This doesn't mean "A Reader's Quirks" won't be promoted to meme status one day, should it be the case. It's all up to you, really :).

ARQ logo by digital artist Lissa

A quick reminder...everyone can comment on my blog, spam or not spam. It matters to me that anyone can join the conversation. As for CAPTCHA...everyone hates it...so you won't find it here. Relax and breathe ;).
This time I'm going to talk about...


(Warning: lengthy post coming...)

[Note: this article was originally posted on Offbeat YA a year ago. I decided to revamp and update it after operating some changes in my TBR list. Also, more afterlife books have been added!]

I think you all know by now that I'm obsessed with afterlife books. I read quite a number of novels with dead MCs. Call me morbid ;P. Seriously, I guess what appeals to me the most is the paradox, the oxymoron of it all - being dead, but still alive on a plane of existence. Getting to see and hear other people, but not being able to be perceived by them. Not to mention, recalling one's death, or (more often) not having a clue and investigating it. Talk about thinking six impossible things before breakfast*...

* Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass" 

And oh, the unfinished business. Because there's always one, isn't it? Life is a series of goals and expectations, and when it's cut short, if you were able to look back at it, you would likely feel restless and outraged because you were supposed to do something. Or have something. Or go somewhere. Whether you're 10 or 100 years old, in such respect, it's always unfair. So we often get characters who still try to fit in the alive world somehow, or to influence it...or - most of the times - to right a specific wrong that death caused to them. (Death is a wrong in itself, the top of all wrongs, of course. But you know what I mean).
Also, how do we imagine the afterlife? Heaven, hell, limbo - we (or better - and more often - authors) make up a million versions of what comes after. Because no one of us, even those who don't believe in landing somewhere after their death, is willing to think it all over. For someone it may be comforting, while someone else just has fun picturing a place and its rules, or reading about it, as an extension of our mortal life. So, you see, afterlife novels have something in them for everyone.
There's no shortage of such stories, both in the adult and YA market. [On a side note - the YA ones usually deal with dead girls. And I love them, of course...to death. But please, oh please, dear authors, write a dead-boy novel once in a while. Just for difference's sake, you know. End of rant**]. I love the YA ones the most, since Remember Me by Christopher Pike introduced me to the genre and threw me into the vast, exciting sea of teen literature. I love them because you're not supposed to die when you're young - you don't even contemplate the possibility. Because it's more unfair than ever then, and of course you (the character) rebel the only way you can think of - trying to still make a difference, whether as a friendly poltergeist or a possessing spirit. Because usually there's a wrong to right, and more than once it's tied to your very death. And, like I said, because of the paradox. Which is the reason why I love time-travel stories too, by the way.
Here is a recap of all the afterlife novels I've read so far (or you can visit my Afterlife Room for them) and the ones I plan on reading...Also, there's a small list of those I decided not to read for whatever reasons, but that you may like instead. Please feel free to add your own title/review/link to an afterlife novel or more along with your comments. Thanks!
[Note: I shelved as Afterlife novels those where the main lead is dead...or undead - or those where there's a conspicuous afterlife setting...all the books that don't fit the bill go into the Supernatural box, so to speak. Consequentially, I encourage you to visit my Supernatural Room for them. Again, thanks!].

** Later note: I finally found a Dead-Boy Novel! Yep, there's actually one at least...Haunt by Curtis Joblin.

Being My Own Detective:
Because HTF Did I End Up Here?

Remember Me by Christopher Pike (ghost lead: Shari) - Between by Jessica Warman (ghost lead: Liz) - Absent by Katie Williams (ghost lead: Paige)

Shari (Remember Me) and Liz (Between) used to be two privileged kids (though with completely different personalities and histories). In death, both of them can go pretty much anywhere and have a male ghost as a companion (though these two relationships are completely different too). Abilities: Shari can enter people's dreams, while Liz can "watch" her own memories and those of her unlikely dead friend -  if they touch, that is. Paige (Absent) used to be a normal girl out of the usual cliques. In death, she's bound to the place where she died (the school building) and has two ghost mates. Ability: she can "possess" people when they think of her. Liz's death is ascribed to an accident, while Shari and Paige have supposedly offed themselves - except they didn't. No one of them knows what really happened, and they try their outmost to uncover the truth (this never gets old!). In the end, they all cross over somehow, though we don't get any glimpse of their afterlife.
Remember Me (see my review here) is a must read with an engaging lead - and the ancestor of all the afterlife YA novels out there. Between (review to come) and Absent (read my review here) are both darker, and both sport flawed heroines (though this is particularly true about Between). If you can cope with that, they're heartily recommended.


Someday I'm Coming Back

Remember Me 2: The Return by Christopher Pike (look who's back: Shari) - Remember Me 3: The Last Story by Christopher Pike (look who's back: Shari) - Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson (look who's back: Lucy) - Death and Other Excuses by Jamie Case (look who's back: Jo) - Mayday by Jonathan Friesen (look who's back: Crow) - My Second Life by Faye Bird (look who's back: Ana...or is it Emma?) - It's a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt (look who's back: RJ)

Shari (Remember Me 2 and 3) comes back in book 2, after spending a year (not that time matters there) in what sounds like a new-ageish afterlife. Of course, she has to come back as someone else. And she's got a purpose now - though she will allow herself to forget it in book 3...where, in an apparently contemporary setting, her story comes full circle. Now, if you're a Pike or Shari fan, go ahead and read these...but the story should have stopped with book 1 (and Pike himself freakin' knows that). Wanna know why? Read my Remember Me 2 review here; and my take on Remember Me 3 here).
Lucy (Deadgirl) is supposed to be dead - except she isn't. And no, she didn't come back as a ghost, vampire or zombie. How refreshing. But she has...issues - and something is after her, because she broke the rules. This is a fantastic read about being young, passionate and hungry - literally - for life. Read my review here; and more about the book in my article here. Sequel coming soon!
Jo (Death and Other Excuses) and Crow [seriously...CROW???!!!...] (Mayday) died for different reasons, but both were sent back in a new body and with a specific purpose (much like Shari in Remember Me 2). Now, DAOE has been on hold forever (read the story recounted in my "review" here). Will it ever come out? As for Mayday, it's been on the market for some months now. And I still have it on my TBR list...In the meantime, read Midnight Book Girl's review here.
Ana (My Second Life) not only had a previous life, but actually remembers it - painfully well. Her mom from when she was Emma, who still feels like the real one to her. And a terrible crime that her past self might have committed. Published in 2014.
RJ (It's a Wonderful Death) finds herself thrown into the afterlife by mistake. So the powers-that-be send her back, on the condition that she replays three moments of her life and makes different choices. Which is not so easy at all...Out in October (I'm excited!).


A Fine and Private Place

The Everafter by Amy Huntley (dead lead: Maddy) - Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini (dead lead: Elliot) - Ferryman by Claire McFall (dead lead: Dylan) - Soul Beach trilogy by Kate Harrison (dead lead: Meggie)

All the above books give their own peculiar version of the afterlife.
In The Everafter, Maddy finds herself in a dark space full of luminescent objects - all the things she lost in life. When she touches them, she gets to relive the moments of her life when such objects were lost. [Now, since she's only 17, she must have spent her whole, short life losing stuff like mad. If Limbo, or whatever it is, worked that way, I wouldn't have the chance to relive more than a few very trivial moments, like supposedly losing a napkin in my courtyard after laundry. How exciting. And I'm 31 years older than Maddy...Very cool concept though, if you can suspend disbelief about perpetually losing stuff during key moments of your life]. Maddy even gets to relive her own death and...can she stop it before it happens? or is it too huge a paradox? I really liked this book overall. My review here.
In Touching the Surface, Elliot is dead for the third time. (And BTW, every time she was reborn as a different person). This time, she can't screw up. Also - like Maddy in The Everafter - she has forgotten significant details of her latest life and death, and she has to undergo a particular process in order to finally recall. The afterlife setting (called the Obmil...see what the author did here?) is a forever-shifting place, where emotions have the power to create different, fluid landscapes. Another cool idea. Read my TTS review here.
In Ferryman, Dylan dies in a train crash and find herself in an afterlife that soon morphs into a wasteland filled with peril, with her ferryman - Tristan - as a guide. Of course, love gets in the way after a while :). I'm a little afraid of the the romance angle, but the book sounds fascinating, so I plan on grabbing it eventually.
In the Soul Beach series, Alice is devastated by the untimely death of her sister Meggie - also because she was murdered, and the culprit hasn't been found yet. This specific afterlife setting is an online paradise where only the young are admitted (oh-oh), and death conveniently turns you into a beauty (had I known this from the start, I would have gotten suspicious about this trilogy). What's behind that? Alice has been given access to the site...a virtual, but all-too-lifelike reality (except she can't touch the people there...or can she?). Peculiar idea, though it needs some suspension of disbelief. Also, this series reads a little too juvenile for me in some respects. Read my reviews: Soul Beach | Soul Fire | Soul Storm.


Fancy Meeting You Here

The Accident by Diane Hoh (alive/dead couple: Megan/Juliet) - Dead in Time by Anna Reith (alive/dead couple: Ellis/Damon) - My Beeting Teenage Heart by C.K. Kelly Martin (alive/dead couple: Breckon/Ashlyn)

In The Accident and Dead in Time, a living character actually interacts with the dead one. The connection is more, well, airy in My Beating Teenage Heart (please note these are mainly speculations based on the blurbs, because I haven't read the last two books yet).
The Accident: ghost girl asks alive girl to switch places for a while, but of course, duh, there's a catch. Typical example of '90s supernatural YA novel.
Dead in Time: deceased rock star from the '70s enlists the help of his biggest fan's daughter in order to find out who killed him. This one should be fun. Especially for someone like me who worships the music and frolics of that decade ;).
My Beating Teenage Heart: dead girl watches over grieving boy. She struggles to remember her own life and death (as usual...) while trying to help him cope with his pain. Told in alternate voices.


I'll Sleep When I'm Dead...
...Or Maybe Not

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (busy ghost: Okiku) - Where the Staircase Ends by Stacy Stokes (busy soul: Taylor) - Atman City series by Michelle E. Reed (busy adventuress: Dez)

The afterlife is a wearisome place sometimes. Or eventful at best.
In The Girl from the Well, the three-hundred-year-old ghost of a murdered Japanese girl hunts killers. Plus she must protect a boy with moving tattoos from a deadly danger...
In Where the Staircase Ends, a hurt girl wishes to disappear from her life...and her wish is granted. Now she's climbing a seemingly endless staircase into the skies, in a journey that plunges her into the past - a journey that can set things right...or can it? Out in April (again, I'm excited!).
In the Atman City series, a seventeen year old girl should adjust to the afterlife and earn her way out of limbo...but there's Atman City, the forbidden place that calls to her. The place that ultimately means danger. This is going to be a trilogy, I think - book 2 came out only a few weeks ago.

...and just in case you want more...

Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans - The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson - The Memory Chronicles duet (+ short story) by Lenore Appelhans - Abandon trilogy by Meg Cabot - The Monster Within series by Kelly Hashway - Hereafter trilogy by Tara Hudson - Ghostgirl series by Tonia Hurley - The Ghost and the Goth series by Stacy Kade - Beautiful Dead series by Eden Maguire Velveteen by Daniel Marks - Afterlife trilogy by Tamsyn Murray The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - Dead Girl trilogy by Linda Joy Singleton - Shade trilogy (+ short stories) by Jeri Smith-Ready - Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Have you read any of the above? Any significant book in the genre that I missed?


  1. I suspect that Crow's name in Mayday comes from the graphic novel/movie The Crow, in which a man is granted a return, briefly, to life in order to avenge the murder of his fiance.
    I loved The Girl From the Well- it was perfectly creepy and unlike anything else I've ever read.
    This will be the year that I FINALLY finish the Ghost and the Goth series.
    I like books set in the afterlife as well, and I really enjoy seeing what authors envision the afterlife to be. I've also become interested in books about reapers- which you wouldn't think would be it's own sub-genre, but totally is. ;)

    1. Thank you for the Crow explanation - it sounds a little less creepy now LOL. Anyway, I seriously doubt that a girl could earn such a nickname IRL ;D.
      And you need to read Deadgirl...on top of everything, there's a reaper!


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