After Me by Joyce Scarbrough

AFTER
After Me by Joyce Scarbrough
Publisher: Buzz Books USA
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (290 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After she’s murdered by a sexual predator, 18-year-old Jada Gayle must stay among the living until she finds and stops the Internet stalker who killed her. When the Afterlife Admissions Office assigns the now “transdead” Jada to a foster home back among the living, she assumes the identity of a newly-dead homeless teen and is expected to simply fit in as she hunts down her killer.

Complicating things even more, Jada discovers that an addendum to her termination agreement was inadvertently left out of her paperwork and means she now must learn to deal with normal human emotions. How can a dead girl be expected to feel anything when life had left her so empty? Then she meets Lew Stanton—captain of the chess team and computer whiz who makes her dead heart beat phantom rhythms in her chest. As if it’s not bad enough to have the hots for a nerd, Jada’s new friend Annalee likes him too.

While Jada deals with all this unwanted teenaged angst, the man who murdered her is closing in on more foolish girls. Jada thinks she has plenty of time to handle her predicament until the night she gets a terrifying message: I HAVE YOUR FRIEND.

Some deaths leave behind loose ends. Now that Jada’s been given the chance to tidy a few of hers up, will she be able to do it?

Jada’s snide approach to the afterlife is quite funny. What really made me like her, though, was how she responded to everything that happened after she was murdered. Not only did it fit her personality to a tee, it blended in incredibly well with how some people react to the type of trauma that she’s just endured. Her character development was superb, especially considering how subtle it is in the first few chapters of this novel. While I don’t know if the author has any intention of fulfilling my wish, this is the kind of book that is absolutely begging for a sequel. I loved getting to know Jada and would be thrilled to catch up with her again very soon.

People in Jada’s position are given special powers to help them complete their missions. Most of her newfound abilities are things that her new friends and foster family wouldn’t notice under normal circumstances, but there are a few things about her that I would have liked to see explained in more detail due to how easy it would be to accidentally reveal them. The powers themselves make a great deal of sense given the nature of her assignment, but it was occasionally hard to believe that Jada was so good at keeping others from noticing the logical consequences of her having them.

The premise of this tale was so unique that as soon as I noticed it I had to know what happens next. Ms. Scarbrough snagged my attention so thoroughly that I actually stayed up past my bedtime for several nights in a row to power through just one more chapter. What really earned this story such a high rating, though, was how the author acknowledged certain tropes in young adult fiction without succumbing to them. It’s hard to dig more deeply into this topic without bumping up against spoilers, but I was impressed by her consistently creative approach to the plot. This was my first introduction to Ms. Scarbrough work, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what she’ll do next!

After Me is a must-read for adults and teens alike. I, for one, will be rereading it again soon.

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