Author: Randy Russell
Publication Date: 29 March 2012
Source: Review Copy
Synopsis from Goodreads
When high school junior Jana Webster dies suddenly, she finds herself in Dead School, where she faces choices that will determine when she, a Riser, will move on, but she strives to become a Slider instead, for the chance to be with the love of her life–even if it means killing him.
I am not going to go into a great deal of detail regarding the plot in this review because it’ll just give away the story completely. What I will begin by saying is that if you like your humour slightly twisted with a seasoning of sarcasm then you are in for a treat.
Told in third person narrative yet focalised from Jana’s perspective, newly deceased in a freak bowling accident OR is it really an accident. She finds herself in Dead School as a Riser. Risers are the good kids that are on their way up while Sliders, are the opposite, yep you got it sliding their way down [ ; D ] Invoking the image of a giant game of Snakes and Ladders where the players learn the rules as they go.
I actually became quite emotionally attached to Jana, underneath her drama queen bee exterior she is very lonely and insecure. Her narcissistic mother, former model, belittles Jana at every opportunity, leaving her alone while she is on photo shoots. Jana retreats into the world of cinema, the only time she is happy is when she is playing someone else. Therefore everything to Jana revolves around things she remembers from films. Even her relationship with Michael is over romanticised in Jana’s head, she clings to Michael like a life raft, planning the rest of their lives together even though they are still only in high school. So when Jana realises that she is dead, she wants Michael right there with her even if she has to kill him.
To be able to interact with the living, Jana has to change her status from Riser to Slider, enter the swoon-worthy Mars Dreamcote. I will be honest, I sniggered every single time I read his name, seriously how totally cheesy but I think that is the point. There is so much more to all of the relationships and interactions in this book, like peeling away the layers of an onion until it all comes together in the end. Hence the need for the third person narration in order to control all of the angles. Mars is a Slider due to his actions when he was alive, now he is dead he has figured out the way to change his status is to save a life.
Mars and Jana are drawn to each other, you can tell both are inherently good deep down, and the irony of them both wanting to change status for each others adds to the dark humour within the narrative. The peripheral characters are all so quirky, the way you look when you die stays with you at dead school, tragic in some cases, totally comical in others. Each character got to tell there own part of the story which really added depth to the story as a whole and actually altered interactions following their confessions. Confession is obviously good for more than the soul [ ; D ]
There are a number of twists within the plot, adding to the action, pace and overall effect of the story.
The outstanding thing about this book for me, was the fact that Jana only really started to live her life after she died.