Another ingenious but leaky story from Sleator (The Boxes, 1998, etc.), likely to leave readers more puzzled than intrigued.
Peter, an 11-year-old traffic fatality, finds himself looking down on his funeral as a voice offers him a do-over. He eagerly accepts, only to discover that the past has a stubborn momentum; he’s killed again, gets another chance, and blows that one, too. Convinced that the key to survival lies in winning the appreciation of his clueless, cold-hearted parents, Peter displays consideration by waiting hand and foot on his pregnant mother, creativity by putting on an elaborate puppet show to explain his feelings, and cleverness by predicting local events that haven’t yet happened, then contriving to shift the resulting public furor onto a bullying classmate. Apparently, all of this makes him a more thoughtful person, so his fatal attraction to passing automobiles ceases. The premise, with its echoes of many books and movies, will only be new to very inexperienced readers, but the cheerlessness of Peter’s home life gives the whole story a drab cast, and the internal logic seems more convenient than consistent. Sleator has a following, but he won’t win any new fans with this one. (Fiction. 10-12)