Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
When 15-year-old Liz dies in a car accident, she goes to Elsewhere. In Elsewhere, the dead age backwards as they bide their time until they can be reborn again on Earth. Liz comes to terms with the end of her life on Earth and falls in love with an ex-fireman who also died too young. Things get a little more complicated when his wife from Earth dies too.
The conceit of Elsewhere seemed to me a particularly elegant way to talk about fraught spiritual/supernatural issues like the afterlife. It seemed obvious that Zevin isn’t making any kind of argument that life and death really work this way. Rather than trying to be believable, Zevin created a whimsical afterlife with logical rules and quaint bureaucracy. She also didn’t dabble in questions of faith that are bound to alienate some readers, or speculate about God, things that annoyed me in other books.
My biggest complaint is that things were too easy in Elsewhere. People seemed to get over the trauma of being dead fairly simply. Liz did spend a lot of time whining about missing her old life, but it came off as brattiness rather than true mourning. Everything just worked out too neatly. People paired off, and problems got solved without me thinking for an instant that they wouldn’t. The side characters, especially the talking dogs, were too cute. The overall tone of the book was too cheery for its subject matter.
For that reason, I say this is one YA book that doesn’t survive the crossover to adult readership. It’s fine and nice, good clean fun, satisfying for young readers who haven’t had much experience with death.