It’s a Wonderful Death
Author: Sarah J. Schmitt
Publication Date: October 6th, 2015
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Summary from Goodreads: 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 a Wonderful Death is a wonderful book. There is so much about this book to love.
Rowena Joy (RJ) Jones is one of the mean, popular girls in high school who pretty much always gets her way, even if it means making other people’s lives miserable. As the “queen bee” of her high school, popularity is everything to her. She gives up her old friends, torments those who are less popular than her, and basically has no regard for anyone else in her strive for popularity. She’s made some really poor choices in her life, but since she thinks her life is pretty good, she doesn’t really care who she steps on or hurts on her way to the top. Like a lot of popular girls, she feels like she is invincible, and she doesn’t concern herself with the little details of how her actions affect those around her.
Until one day, at the school carnival, the grim reaper comes to collect the soul of the fortune teller – only to accidentally kill RJ instead. Stunned, confused, and angry, RJ is whisked away to begin her afterlife. Only RJ isn’t having any of it, because she isn’t ready to be dead. So she puts up a fight and causes an uproar so that her case is heard – and that she can get back to her body and back to her life.
However, upon watching the movie of her life and seeing some of the moments in which she might have used some questionable judgement, RJ starts to see what kind of a person she was – and she doesn’t really like what she sees. After much deliberation, it is decided that RJ may return to three moments in her life and try to do them over – the right way this time. She is guided by three souls that she knew in her life – three souls that were connected to her in life and are affected (either directly or though family) by some of RJ’s decisions. RJ has one more chance to get these moments right and change the events of her life so that she might be allowed to return and continue living – only if the angels are impressed by her actions and feel that she has changed enough to warrant changing everything.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. It’s fun, it’s lighthearted and yet deep at the same time, and it reminds me of A Christmas Carol. My favorite part about the book, however, is definitely the amazing character development present with RJ. Rarely do I see such a well written character to begin with (sometimes I really enjoy the “bad” characters!), and seeing how she changes throughout the novel is amazing. She really turns her life (and, well, death) around, and I really felt a connection to her.
I was pretty sad when this book ended, and for a while I was kind of peeved about the ending itself, but after having a day or two to think about it, it’s quite obvious that the ending was absolutely perfect for the book. I can’t imagine this book having a better ending. Sarah J. Schmitt really knows how to create an addictive story and remarkable characters that stand out from other books. She also painted a beautiful picture of the “afterlife,” and it was so easy to get attached to the characters there. They were fun, they were colorful (for example, Death wears Hawaiian print shirts…who knew?), and they were some of the best written characters I’ve come across in quite a long time.
This entire book deserves a read, especially if you like the A Christmas Carol theme going on. The whole high school/popular girl drama was well written, and It’s A Wonderful Death is sure to become a favorite!
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.
Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, comes out Fall 2015 from Sky Pony Press.