Recommended for ages 12+
RJ is a classic mean girl. She runs with the “in” crowd, she’s stuck-up, and she’s spoiled rotten. But she learns pretty quickly that Death is the grand equalizer when a Grim Reaper accidentally collects her soul. Now, she’s in the Afterlife and she’s not happy. She’s raising a ruckus, but her existing track record isn’t doing her any favors. If she can get enough souls, angels, and Death Himself on her side, she may stand a second chance, but can she stop thinking about herself long enough to make the right choices?
Written in the first person from RJ’s point of view, It’s a Wonderful Death is nearly unputdownable. It’s loaded with snark and sarcasm that will leave you chuckling and snorting into your sleeve (I commute on public transportation, for heaven’s sake). I needed to know what RJ was going to say next, or what Death Himself was going to come up with. Both characters are hilarious and yet, get the message across. What you do in life will stay with you. Whatever you believe – a topic touched on in this book – there is a reckoning; what you may think is a minor moment in your life could mean someone else’s life. We also see, very clearly, that as much as bad karma snowballs, so does good karma.
This story operates on the hope that people are, for the most part, good – if you show them a chance to go on the right path, and they take it, chances are, they’ll keep finding ways to stay on that path. It’s a pretty upbeat message, for a book about a dead teenager.
It’s a Wonderful Death is a very moral story that would lend itself to some great book discussions. And why shouldn’t it? Author Sarah J. Schmitt is a youth librarian. If she can’t get a teen’s sarcasm down, who can? She gets to the heart of a lot of teen issues here, and for that reason, It’s a Wonderful Death is on my must-have list for my YA collection. .
Have a morality program without beating kids over the head with the concept by showing Death Note one week, then discuss this book the next. There are a lot of facets to be discussed.