Reviewed by Evie Woolmore.
This is one of the most accomplished novels I have read in a long while and it’s well worth a read, whether you are YA or adult. Don’t let the synopsis put you off: it is a novel about death, about suicide in particular. But it is also a creative, imaginative, thought-provoking but thoroughly readable novel in an incredibly well-imagined world. It draws very cleverly on our own environment, reflecting familiar aspects that bring lightness to what otherwise might seem dark subject matter (the Wal-Mart section is particularly good in that respect), but it also does what the very best magical realism should do, which is to make you feel that this other world is just around the corner, if only you could learn how to see it.
Jayden Schroeder has taken her own life, but finds herself plunged into a state of suspended existence with an eclectic group of companions drawn from all times and cultures. Together they must fight for the souls of the living, dependent all the while on the generosity of the mysterious He. There are rules in this place, clear rules which must be lived by under threat of serious penalty. But it is exhausting this state of being, between the physical demands of learning to fight and the emotional demands of forging alliances and loyalties to strangers. Jayden’s relationship with Marsh and Neala are very well drawn, and the pacing of the book is extremely good. And through it all, Jayden must make decisions about her own future, and reflect on the reasons she decided to take her life. This novel could easily be taken as an essay on the rights and wrongs, not to mention the collateral consequences of suicide, especially by a young person. But it is also an exceptionally well-written novel and a thoroughly excellent read.
A note from Tahlia: I love this cover.