A lot of people around my age (I'm 21 as of Monday!) who read this book found it trite or uninteresting. I did not. I loved this book. I give it five stars out of five. I devoured it in the course of two days. It was thought-provoking and I could relate to the main character to an extent (I have been hit by a car but when I was 5 and I was (hopefully obviously) not killed, and also I never had boys interested in me until I was 18, and I've been depressed) The plot of the book is that a girl gets hit and killed by a car and finds the afterlife to be very different than she ever imagined. This next part will be full of spoilers. You have been warned.
15-year-old Elizabeth Marie Hall is the typical angsty teen. At the beginning of the story, we find her angsting over not being asked to prom, and she rides her bike to the mall to help her best friend pick out a prom dress. She never makes it to the mall because she is hit and killed by a taxi. She "wakes up" on a boat and thinks that she is dreaming. It takes her a long time to realize that she is, in fact, dead. She has to watch her funeral before she really believes it. She is on a boat with many other people (mostly old people) to a place called Elsewhere and to the afterlife. She has to make some hard decisions when it's time to leave the boat. Is she ready to leave behind the life she had before? To never be with her friends and family on Earth again? She learns that if she stays on the boat and rides back to Earth, she'll be stuck as a ghost and slowly drive her friends and family insane, which is not what she wants. She gets to Elsewhere and is surprised to see that it is very similar to Earth. She falls into a deep depression for quite a while. She learns that in Elsewhere, people age backward until they are babies again and then they are sent back to Earth. They might see people from their old life but will almost definitely not recognize them. Liz spends time adjusting to the afterlife and finds that some of the things that seemed so important before are insignificant now. She earns money from her avocation (which is like a job but is something that a person loves to do and gets paid for). But what is she supposed to do with all of the money? She no longer needs to save it for college or a house. She learns that the afterlife can be just as confusing as frustrating as her life on Earth. She also learns that nobody is all good or all bad. I really liked the ending, which I won't give away.
This book made me think a lot. I couldn't decide whether Elsewhere would be a good afterlife or not. I don't like the idea of being able to be depressed in the afterlife. It is also very sad to me that some people never get to see their loved ones again, depending on when they died. If a mother loses her child and then dies much later, the child will have already returned to Earth as a baby by the time the mother reaches Elsewhere. It also seemed sad that once the people age backwards until babies, they forget about everyone that they ever loved. Sure they will love new people in their new life, but it still seems really sad to me. I also don't like that people can still get hurt in Elsewhere. I really don't like the thought of having lived your life to the end, and then after the amount of years old you were, having to go have another life on Earth, over and over and over. I hate that there is still addiction in Elsewhere. I like the fact that there are pets in Elsewhere, but I don't like that people can still be allergic to them. I like that there is still love in Elsewhere but I don't like that there is still heartbreak. I like that people get to choose the thing they love most and make that their job. I like that once a person has been in Elsewhere long enough, they no longer worry about anything (because they're a child again and no longer know what worry is). I like that aging backwards eventually heals all (physical) wounds. I wondered where all of the criminals were in Elsewhere. Everyone who dies goes to Elsewhere, but there were no murderers, thieves, or rapists. When people first get to Elsewhere, they are pretty much the same as they were on Earth, and sometimes over time their ways of thinking change, but not right away.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The epilogue involved the thoughts of a dog and made me wonder if the rest of the book would be enjoyable at all. I was pleased to find that it was. This book was also a good break from my Dean Koontz addiction, since I can't always read his books before bed without having pieces of them in my dreams. Since he writes thrillers and supernatural thrillers, usually involving murder, that is not good. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult literature or who enjoyed The Lovely Bones, especially to teenage girls.