When Brie’s heart literally breaks, killing her, she must go through the five stages of grief before moving on in the afterlife.
Brie leaves behind a loving family, three best friends and a first boyfriend whose declaration that he didn't love her caused the bizarre heart event that offed her. Under the guidance of the annoying-but-hot Patrick, she explores the afterlife, haunts her ex-boyfriend and works her way through the D&G Handbook (D&G stands for "dead and gone"). It's Patrick who tells her that her first task in the afterlife is to work through those five classic stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. Brie is a likable-enough narrator, when she's not being vengeful. But Rothenberg's afterlife is irritatingly undefined for one that comes complete with a handbook. Rules seem to be applied more for narrative convenience than any adherence to complete concept, and the twist that drives the climax, while satisfying in an It's A Wonderful Life kind of way, comes out of nowhere. Moreover, her progress through the stages of grief becomes muddied by her continued interactions with the living world. Yes, she's angry, but it's hard to tell whether she's angry at dying or at her ex-boyfriend. Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere (2005) stands out as far better treatment of a similar concept.
Interesting idea, not-so-great execution. (Fiction. 13 & up)