Published by Vintage on May 12, 2015
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed "Boo" because of his pale complexion and staticky hair, is an outcast at his Illinois middle school--more interested in biology and chemistry than the friendship of other kids. But after a tragic accident, Boo wakes up to find himself in a very strange sort of heaven: a town populated only by 13-year-old Americans. While he desperately wants to apply the scientific method to find out how this heaven works (broken glass grows back; flashlights glow without batteries; garbage chutes plummet to nowhere), he's confronted by the greatest mystery of all--his peers. With the help of his classmate Johnny, who was killed at the same time, Boo begins to figure out what exactly happened to them (and who they really were back in America) through this story about growing up, staying young and the never-ending heartbreak of being thirteen.
It’s fitting that there are so many copies of Lord of the Flies in the “strange sort of heaven” in which Boo takes place. The children there have developed a way to govern themselves, but their peaceful life (afterlife, rather) is challenged with the appearance of Boo, his classmate Johnny, and the mystery surrounding their deaths.
The best thing about this book is it feels both character-driven and plot-driven. If you enjoy watching characters develop as they face both inner and external conflict, you love this novel. If you enjoy plot-driven novels, you’ll love this book’s “whodunit” thrill. (That aspect, by the way, kept me guessing to the end).
Every person in this afterlife has his or her own theology, spirituality, or way of reasoning, and they treat each other with great respect in that regard. Naturally, there’s a lot in their society that mirrors our own. Social issues that apply to us, the living, are woven into the story in subtle ways that really get you thinking.
This is a book you’ll want to talk about, so get a friend or your book group to read this one with you! (You can also come over to The Socratic Salon when we discuss it next month).