A Novel

Book - 2015
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After teenagers Oliver Dalrymple and Johnny Henzel are killed by a school shooter, they find themselves in the afterlife and when they attempt to uncover the circumstances of their deaths, they discover a profound truth about their past lives and their current situation.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Contemporaries/Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2015.
ISBN: 9780804171366
Branch Call Number: FIC SMITH, NEIL
Characteristics: 310 pages ; 21 cm


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martins_mom Jul 13, 2015

Great crossover title: Published as an adult book, but many teens would enjoy a story about a heaven populated by only 13-year-olds. Things do happen in this heaven, not the least of them being the unravelling of secrets from life on earth.

SPL_Melanie Jun 03, 2015

Reviewed in Stratford Gazette, June 7, 2015. Full review under "summary" tab.

*This is an adult novel with appeal to teens as well


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SPL_Melanie Jun 03, 2015

SPL_Melanie thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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SPL_Melanie Jun 03, 2015

It’s 1970, and school is not going so great for Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple – nicknamed for his similarity to the pale reclusive Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird. In fact, as the story begins, he blacks out right in front of his locker.

And then he wakes up in heaven, assuming that his congenital heart defect has finally done him in. It’s an unexpected heaven, in which all of the residents are 13 year old Americans, although Oliver discovers that while everyone looks 13, some of them have been there for much longer than a year. His new world is full of weirdly specific rules that he must decipher, even as he begins to make friends – just one more difference from his past life. One of these friends is another recent arrival, Johnny, someone Oliver knew in his schooldays.

But what he finds out from Johnny is that they were both murdered…and their killer just may be in heaven with them.

This sets off a journey of discovery, with Oliver, Johnny and their friends trying to figure out what actually happened to them back at school. It also instigates a lot of soul-searching about justice and what the right punishment is for their killer, if they ever find him.

The story is complex, with a diverse cast of characters who all ‘come of age’ through their experiences despite being stuck at the age of 13. The power of friendship and trust is a strong thread that weaves each of these lives together. Smith creates engaging characters with a wide-ranging variety of personalities and characteristics, and each has something new to add to the story.

Written in the form of a letter to Boo’s parents, whom he is desperate to reassure of his continued well-being, this book is a touching portrayal of a young man struggling to find the meaning of his afterlife. It is highly imaginative, thoughtful, and at times extremely funny. I haven’t come across such an original story in ages – if you’re looking for something unusual that can spark conversation about deep themes, while also being an entertaining, eventful read, give this one a try.


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