Ah, death. It’s pretty much everywhere in teen lit, isn’t it?

Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on A.S. King's 'Everybody Sees the Ants.'

You’ve got the classic Dying Young Stories, like pretty much anything by Lurlene McDaniel: Six Months to Live; I Want to Live; Please Don’t Die; Too Young to Die; Sixteen and Dying; She Died Too Young; Mother, Help Me Live; Mother, Please Don’t Die...the tear-stained list goes on and on and sadly on.

Obviously, there’s also the entire paranormal genre. Vampires? Zombies? Just because they’re walking and talking (or shambling and moaning) doesn’t mean that they aren’t dead. Lots of ghost narrators as well, like the ladies in Sara Shepard’s Lying Game series and Tonya Hurley’s Ghostgirl books.*

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Death shows up in person (so to speak) pretty often, whether it be in the scythe/robe getup—like Terry Pratchett’s Death—or in the guise of Hades, as in any of the Percy Jackson books, or in re-imaginings of the Persephone myth.** Death even does the narrating on occasion, as in Marcus Zusak’s much-beloved The Book Thief.*** And then, of course, the are the zillions of books about angels, fallen angels, demons and people who are the offspring of angels and/or demons.

catastrophe After reading Jess Rothenberg’s The Catastrophic History of You & Me, though, the Death Books that I’m interested in at the moment are the ones that deal directly with the afterlife, whether it be heaven, hell or limbo. Catastrophic is about 16-year-old Brie Eagan, who gets dumped by her boyfriend and dies of a broken heart. Literally. Like, her heart splits in half. And then the story begins.

I’m still mulling it over—it held me tight enough that I blew through it in one sitting, and yes, it made me cry, but I still have some loose ends in my brain that I need to work out—so here are a couple of my fave afterlife books:

Everlost by Neal Shusterman: After dying in a car accident, Nick and Allie end up in Everlost, a Limbo inhabited only by children. As you’d expect from Neal Shusterman, Everlost deals with a tough topic while bringing the tension, mystery and adventure, but without ever getting heavy-handed or resorting to preaching. Good stuff, and there are two sequels!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: High school senior Samantha Kingston dies, and she has to re-live the last day of her life again and again until she gets it right. It’s like Groundhog Day, but without Andie MacDowell. (Thankfully.) One of the things I love best about this one is that Sam isn’t particularly likable at first—she actually comes off as a real jerk. But as she makes attempt after attempt to escape the loop, two things happen: She realizes that other people have more than one facet, and the reader sees that Sam does, too.

What about you? I know you’re thinking of one that I have to read.


* I’m a sucker for anything Sara Shepard, as she reads like a teen version of Desperate Housewives. Ghostgirl, however, despite its gorgeous design, didn’t win me over. At all.

** Meg Cabot’s Abandon and Emily Whitman’s Radiant Darkness are two recent-ish examples.

*** Want to cry so hard that you can’t breathe? Read The Book Thief.

If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is impatiently waiting for the next winter share from her CSA.