It's a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. SchmitteBook, English, 320 pages
Debut: October 6, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Paranormal, Young Adult
Read First: September 23-24, 2015 | Snuck from: YA Bound Book Tours -- I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?
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Why I picked this story up:
A snarky heroine in some serious trouble, Death Himself in a Hawaii shirt, a power-hungry archangel, a first row seat to the mysterious inner workings of the afterlife -- tribunal style, the general chance of a do-over to make a life worth saving? SOLD! Seriously, how could I possibly resist that?!
What I found:
I want to get Schmitt's words right back at her: "humbling, but not preachy". It's a Wonderful Death is a truly dramatic, tragic, touching story about how the choices we make define us as a person as we come to a crossroads time and again, that the easy way isn't necessarily the right way, and how we, our personalities, and the lives we lead are also a part of someone else's life. I think those are things we forget all too often when we get caught in the routine of everyday life. We so easily forget that we're not all islands just floating about in the same sea, and I want to say thank you for this amazing book that unleashed a whirlwind of emotions reminding me of everything life has to offer, to appreciate every breath, and to make a difference every chance I get with something as effortless as a smile. Because life isn't just about what we achieve for ourselves, it's also about all those we touch around us.
RJ was sympathetic right away -- I just love me some snarky heroine, especially if she's also fierce enough to back that up. RJ knew how to dig her heals in and, almost literally, raise hell if that's what it took. "Supernova" really was the right word to describe her with, even though her old life was scorching the people in her path in an entirely different way than it did at her second chance. The whole set-up of having a chance to set some things right at three points in your life, even the tribunal setting, wasn't new at all, but Schmitt picked really good situations -- all induced by fear. But you know the best part? RJ didn't come out as a better person in the end. Yep, that's right, she didn't. She already was a good person from the get go, she didn't need to change. She only needed to be brave enough to be that good person in those precise moments.
So the reason RJ doesn't get full flashy 5 heroine stars from me as a character is because I think Schmitt cheated a tadbit here. You see, I think RJ only aced the test because it was her older, smarter, tougher self who stuck up to the bully in that first scene. Not that I didn't like it, I totally loved it, but it leaves the question unanswered if she could've also been the better person if she was completely back in the mindset of coming face-to-face with her first bully, or if she would have chosen the easy way out yet again.
I also want to give another slight slap on the wrist for the whole power-struggle issue. I feel the book would've rocked just as much without it, a real accident getting the afterlife in upheaval, and magical beings taking sides simply because of their personalities -- and not because there were other things on the conspiracy agenda. Because, really, being a pawn in this didn't influence RJ's behavior, at least not on the scale it should have fit her personality. So yeah, those two things together make half a point off supernova girl. Still love her to death, of course -- pun intended.
Yeah, I don't want to give away anything else, so I'm just saying the whole thing is perfectly hilarious, partly ridiculous, and I can totally see the more religious readers bristling on the setting, but especially on all the sidekicks from the afterlife. Haven't laughed that hard from a YA read in a long while, it was very refreshing. But it didn't feel mocking to me, not in the slightest. Quite the contrary, actually -- I felt the love pour off every page. And the fact that there weren't happy endings for everyone involved tipped this off to be so... real. Couldn't help some tears, either. Full points on style to capture every emotion just right. It's a Wonderful Death is most definitvely among my Top 5 reads this year, and I know I will love re-reading this a few times.
Area Scan: Idea: 5/5 -- Style/Vocab: 5/5 -- Plot: 5/5 -- Heroine: 4.5/5 -- Hero: 5/5 -- Sidekicks: 5/5 -- Hearts: 5/5 -- Tears: 5/5 -- Thrills: 4/5 -- Laughs: 5/5
Discovered: 5+ Hoods
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