It’s A Wonderful Death: Review

September 24, 2015 2015, 3 star books, paranormal, reaper 13 ★★★

It’s A Wonderful Death: ReviewIt's A Wonderful Death Published by Sky Pony Press on October 6th, 2015
Genres: paranormal
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
three-stars
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?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

It’s interesting how some three star books are “good” three stars, and some three star books are “bad” three stars. This is definitely the case of a “good” three star. It’s a book that I genuinely enjoyed, and one that was funny, deep, and alternately light hearted yet heart aching throughout. I suppose this is the part where I admit to you, friends, that I have been in such a terrible reading slump for well over a month now. Nothing (other than Cara McKenna’s excellent romance novels it seems) is getting through to me at the real emotional level. This novel was good and affecting, but some emotions just didn’t get through to me, and I can’t tell if it’s me and my slump or the book. Frustrating!

So the premise goes that RJ’s soul is accidentally reaped and she is sent onto the Afterlife for “processing”. The Afterlife was a fully-realized realm displaying a combination of Christian and Greek myths. RJ gets bounced around between a variety of angels, reapers, other otherworldly beings, and even Death Himself. Did you know the Afterlife has a ton of bureaucracy that makes simple requests like reuniting your soul with the unjust separation from its body? Well, it does. It was so entertaining to watch RJ interact with a variety of well known figures; everyone from St. Peter to Cerberus. And all of the characters we meet were so colorful. The book was just plain fun, especially for those who enjoy watching characters from mythology and religion come to life.

I enjoyed RJ for being a heroine likeable exactly for her unlikeability. It was honestly refreshing to me to have a protagonist who was so unpleasant (at first). Yes, you can have female main characters who aren’t perfectly good girls. Something else that was totally refreshing? This is a YA novel with no romance. And it was all the better for it. So, RJ has to cut through all of that Heavenly red-tape and make the case for even giving her a shot at getting back to her life. The Afterlife bureaucracy doesn’t take kindly to admitting it’s made mistakes and the Heavenly host overseeing RJ’s tribunal doesn’t see why RJ is worth the time. And you don’t really want to be on the bad side of a power tripping archangel.  RJ was the reigning Mean Girl in her high school. Her short time on Earth hadn’t had the most positive effects in the lives around her.

But they do decide to give her at least a chance, and so RJ is presented with three moments in her life where she can choose to remain the same, and make the same choice she made the first time. Or she can handle it differently if she wants. It’s all up to her. After her trials, the tribunal will reconvene and decide if she’s truly changed, and if the changes she’s made resulted in positive effects in the ripple-web effect of the lives around her.

I wish we had seen more of RJ’s life as the evil queen bee so we had a better appreciation for her growth. It’s a first person narrative so we do get to see the inner workings of her mind from the get go. And we get to see her reflect on her evil machinations in the sort of flashbacks of the trials, but it could have been more effective if we had seen it firsthand than through memories. Sarah J. Schmitt did a wonderful job of making RJ relatable. She was an awful, selfish, uncaring person in her first go around. And it can be hard to get readers themselves on board as to why RJ deserves a second chance.

But Schmitt really dug into her humanity, and you feel for RJ who is still such a young person after all. We all like to believe that change really can happen. Seeing RJ actually confront her life, and exactly how awful she had become is the key to effectiveness in this story. At its heart, this is a story about second chances and the power of friendship. It’s best not to think too seriously about the effects of changing timelines. I mean, you know, Heavenly beings have the power to change all of time and space. Just accept it.

And the ending was very effective. View Spoiler » It was satisfying in how perfectly bittersweet it was.

Read this book, but obviously don’t go into it expecting a serious examination on free will and the ramifications of changing timelines. It’s a fun book, but one that also has a serious and good message at its core. It’s A Wonderful Death is recommended for those who enjoy fun and light paranormal, reaper stories, and second chances. And I see it being especially popular among the younger YA crowd.

 

 

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

 

kim teal

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Responses to “It’s A Wonderful Death: Review”

  1. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I was just thinking about this good 3-star review/bad 3-star review thing today when I was updating Amazon with a few past reviews. Even with the possibility of 3.5 stars (which I do use), I still find my feelings vary on ratings. It’s just that there are so many things that I take into account when I rate!
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted…Sunday Post & Giveaways Galore 10/4/15

  2. Carina Olsen

    Gorgeous review Kim :D So glad you liked this book. <3 It looks SO PRETTY. And it sounds exciting too. Yet not for me, I don't think. Hmph. But yay for a good three star book :) But sorry it wasn't perfect :\ but even just enjoying books is a good feeling :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweet girl. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #204

    • Kim

      The cover is really lovely! But no worries that it’s not for you. I think this one, moreso than YA usually is, is best left for it’s intended audience. And at that, definitely the younger end of that audience.
      Kim recently posted…Six of Crows: blog tour + giveaway

  3. Nikki

    There’s something about hearing the synopsis of this story that makes me worry that it’s just a little too…I’m not sure what word I’m looking for…childish, maybe? Or immature? I don’t think this is one that will make my TBR pile.

    • Kim

      It definitely skews to the younger side of YA and that comes across in the synopsis, I think. The premise is definitely very silly so it’s really just a matter of personal taste whether it’s something you can stomach. I’m glad I could help you decide this one isn’t for your TBR!
      Kim recently posted…Six of Crows: blog tour + giveaway

  4. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Slumps are the worst! I have been going through some serious book hangovers over September, so I haven’t read as much as I would have liked… but book hangovers are much better than slumps because at least you’re submerged in the last world you read!

    This one sounds like a lot of fun of a read, and one that I might give a try since I like books about reapers and mixing different religions and mythologies sound fun!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Walk On Eath A Stranger Release Day Blitz!!

    • Kim

      Oh, give me a book hangover any day! Book hangovers are at least bittersweet. You’re hurting because you loved a book so much. In my case, I’m hurting because I was utterly devastated (in the worst possible way) by a book and now everything I read is gray and blah. I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone! I feel bad because maybe this book is much better than I experienced it? I definitely see all of its potential. But nothing’s getting through to me. :(
      Kim recently posted…Six of Crows: blog tour + giveaway

  5. Vane J.

    Reading slumps are the absolute WORST. I think I’m in one too because nothing I read is engaging me. :/ But the concept of this book looks so interesting! And you say this is a YA book that has no romance? Well, I must read it. Fantastic review and good luck with your slump.
    Vane J. recently posted…Review: Placebo Junkies

    • Kim

      Ugh, it really is the worst! You go through a whole period of, “Is it me or is the books?” And either way, it’s not a good feeling. So blargh. Fingers crossed this will be the one to get you out of your slump!
      Kim recently posted…Six of Crows: blog tour + giveaway

  6. J. Oh

    Totally agree about the good vs. bad three stars, and glad this was a good one! Still not sure if it’s quite for me–I tend to not like paranormal unless something else is very compelling about it, and I’l admit I’m also not a fan of unlikable main characters (ha, hence the unilkable, I suppose). I believe you that the author did it well, and I might still give this book a chance, but I’m definitely more on the earnest than snarky side, and sometimes I just feel like I’m overwhelmed by all the snark in YA. However, that being said, this is an interesting concept, so I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    • Kim

      Ha oh yes. I understand all too well about the over-snarkification of YA. This one might not be for you then and that’s okay! It’s all about RJ’s journey to being a more genuine, authentic person so there’s definitely a payoff for all the snark in the beginning. But time is often better spent on reading books you’re more sure you’ll enjoy.
      Kim recently posted…Classic MG Discussion: A Girl of the Limberlost

    • Kim

      Isn’t it so strange? Sometimes I find myself totally meh on a book and I give it three. I think sometimes the question of “merit” comes in. Like, “I didn’t really like this book, but it didn’t deserve to get a two.” Like that, you know? And sometimes it’s like “I enjoyed this book! Just not really on a four level. Threes are so tricky!
      Kim recently posted…Classic MG Discussion: A Girl of the Limberlost