Prom night crash kills favorite son.
High-school senior Johnny Peterson was perfect in every way: kind, bright, handsome, tall, athletic, college-bound, responsible, brave, strong, and true. Yet a dreadful fate awaited this teenaged paragon: a convertible full of rowdy football players forced him in front of oncoming traffic on a southern California highway. His death was a terrible shock and so unfair (as Steel points out several times). Johnny wasn’t drunk or high, and perhaps his quick reactions in those final terrible seconds saved everyone else who was with him. Oh, how will those who knew him well ever come to terms with their shock and grief, and find closure? Well, luckily, it’s not long before Johnny returns in angelic guise to not only comfort his stricken family, but help them solve all their problems. And they have so many problems, beginning with Johnny’s younger brother Bobby, completely mute and withdrawn into a lonely world of his own since the car accident five years ago that turned his guilt-ridden father Jim into a taciturn alcoholic. Shortly after Johnny’s death, his mother Alice vomits blood and is taken, unconscious, to the hospital, where she is diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. That’s when Johnny appears, looking oh-so-real, to explain that people who die suddenly are sometimes allowed to return to help the living. He gently points out that his sister, the equally athletic Charlotte, never got enough attention. Could Alice persuade Jim to attend her games? She doubts it, but, lo and behold, morose Jim is now a changed man, 12-stepping his way to recovery. Bobby is visited by his dead brother, too, and starts talking at last. But can Johnny accept that his girlfriend Rebecca is now free to love another? Yes, though his heart is breaking.
Simple prose, sentimental, with sure-fire YA appeal: less contrived than most of Steel’s work (Answered Prayers, 2002), etc.).