An irreverent and compellingly unique story about death, grieving, and moving on, I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan successfully mixes the macabre and morose with a lighthearted twist on the afterlife.
When you’re sixteen, you have your whole life ahead of you. Unless you’re Sarah. Not to give anything away, but . . . she’s dead. Murdered, in fact. Sarah’s murder is shocking because she couldn’t be any more average. No enemies. No risky behavior. She’s just the girl on the sidelines.
It looks like her afterlife, on the other hand, will be pretty exciting. Sarah has woken up dead at the Mall of America—where the universe sends teens who are murdered—and with the help of her death coach, she must learn to move on or she could meet a fate totally worse than death: becoming a mall walker.
As she tries to finish her unfinished business alongside her fellow dead teens, Sarah falls hard for a cute boy named Nick. And she discovers an uncanny ability to haunt the living. While she has no idea who killed her, or why, someone she loves is in grave danger. Sarah can’t lose focus or she’ll be doomed to relive her final moments again and again forever. But can she live with herself if she doesn’t make her death matter?
Most books that deal with death and grieving tend to be on the dark, serious side. I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is a unique — and quite frankly, brilliant — combination of that dark, serious side with an uplifting, lighthearted twist. The result is an optimistic outlook on this macabre theme. What’s more, Sheehan does so without ever getting into that murkiest of subjects: religion.
I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is more about coming to terms with a great loss — in this case, the characters’ own human lives — and finding peace to move on. It’s a backwards way of looking at grief, and that’s what makes this book work so brilliantly!
Sheehan cleverly turns the subject upside down, and narrates her story from the perspective of the deceased, rather than the bereaved. The twist still portrays the challenge and heartache of grief and loss, but leaves room for some irreverence, tasteful humor, and lightness. The combination is an easy to read, accessible book about death that is enjoyable.
Also, Sheehan’s afterlife limbo for murdered teens is the freaking Mall of America. The humor and writing in this book is just so damn witty. It adds an unexpected but delightful spice to a book about an otherwise very serious subject: death, and solving a murder. I mean, the smarts involved just in thinking up such a wildly unexpected combination deserves some applause.
I Woke Up Dead at the Mall may inspire a few tears — but more likely, it will inspire a smile, a few laughs, and a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is in stores now.