Michael Brant’s life was seemingly perfect. His family loved each other, he was the star of the football team, his girlfriend was beautiful inside and out, and his future was bright.
That was, until he was struck by a car on his morning jog and passed away. Then, the precariously placed dominos of his family’s perfect life started to collapse, threatening to tear everyone apart in his absence.
Post-mortem, Michael is forced to watch his family turn into people he doesn’t even recognize. With only the ghost of Joey (an unusual friend, even in death) to help him, he must figure out how to solve the mystery of who killed him– before the damage become irreparable.
I really liked the concept of this book. It’s not your normal YA romance. It reminds me a bit of If I Stay but with less flashbacks and more spirits present. Following Mike after death makes the novel extremely interesting, especially since you get to see the results of his unbalanced emotions and how he reacts to the terrible things his family falls into. Mack’s writing style is simplistic enough that the story was definitely easy to follow while also keeping me engaged.
At times, though, I wished the emotions were a little more thoroughly portrayed. Mike’s reaction to being dead almost felt empty to me, and I wanted him to be a little more hurt by the events that took place. It made it hard for me to connect with him at the beginning, especially since Mack has created this “perfect boy” image for him. Honestly, I kept waiting for someone to uncover a secret and bust his perfect persona right open, but it never happened. Was I slightly disappointed? Yes. Having such a flawless main character makes it hard to relate to that person.
In the end, though, the plot did win me over. I was actually in tears — both in satisfaction for the way things ended for Mike and Joey and for the sweet, sweet events at the close of the novel. I felt that the character’s resolutions were one-hundred percent justified, even the father (although I really do wish he’d gotten a more serious punishment). So, although I struggled to connect with the emotions at the beginning of the novel, it really hit me harder at the end.
Another issue I had was, even though I knew this book was going to have some very serious events and topics in it, there were certain scenes that still caught me off-guard because of the level of violence portrayed. Sensitive individuals that have past trauma regarding sexual abuse might want to steer clear of this novel. A trigger warning might be warranted somewhere in the beginning.
Well done, Sarah Mack. Truly. If you’re a fan of unusual YA and don’t mind the somewhat triggering concepts, pick this one up.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Pacing: A bit slow for my liking
Intended Audience: YA
Content Warnings: Suicide, sexual abuse, death (a central theme), grief, self-harm, and drug use.