Synopsis: When Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America, she learns that not only was she murdered, her killer is still on the loose.
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?
If you are looking for a YA title that will have you clapping and laughing and flipping pages through the night… I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is for you. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as charming and original as this one. NOTHING IS LIKE THIS BOOK. If you aren’t already reading this book then RUN don’t walk to the nearest bookstore and buy it. Now.
The moment I read the blurb about this book, I knew it was going to be a fun read. What I didn’t know was that this book would be at once witty and delightful and achingly lovely on every single page. Every now and then a novel comes along that really reminds me of all the things I LOVE about YA literature. The romance that is just present enough to make you swoon without making you roll your eyes, the plot that actually surprises you, and prose that is gorgeous enough to keep you a bit starry-eyed as you read. This is that novel.
Or, as they say in this book… The afterlife. As the title implies, the afterlife as we see it here, takes place in a mall. Or, rather, malls across the world. Apparently, everyone who has unfinished business wakes up at a mall, where they have to learn to let go of their earthly problems and move on to their next lives. It’s a little absurd to think that the dead are congregating at malls around the world, but it also makes a weird kind of sense. Those who are murdered in New York City go to The Mall of America, because it’s the only mall large enough to hold all of them apparently (isn’t that a happy thought).
I loved the imagery of dead zombie mall-walkers, forced to spend eternity walking the mall and reliving their deaths until they muster up the will to face their past and move on to the next life. It’s just such a clever idea. That’s an image that sticks with you.
Sarah is extremely believable and likable from the very first paragraph. She wakes up and is kind of like, “Are you serious? THIS is what death feels like?” Which is what I think I would say if I woke up dead in The Mall of America. I thought he voice really jumped off the page – it was like reading a letter from a close friend. I felt like I knew her immediately, and I really enjoyed her wry sense of humor and witty commentary. First person doesn’t always work, but she was a very compelling narrator, and I got swept up in the story without missing a beat. Plus, she has major SASS, which is something I appreciate in a YA heroine.
The supporting cast was also a selling point here. Even Lacey and Declan, both of whom I thought would be annoying and hard to like when they were first introduced, won me over by the end.
Nick if a dreamboat for sure, and while it is a little like instalove, it didn’t bother me because I think all bets are off when you meet a guy in a support group for the dead – especially if you never got the chance to be in love while you were alive. They’ve got some mad chemistry, and I liked that even though they clearly are becoming a thing, that doesn’t stop them from looking after their own families over each other. I like when people make their own decisions while falling in love – love doesn’t have to change everything, and it’s unrealistic to change all of your plans and priorities around the second you meet a guy. Luckily Nick and Sarah both have unfinished business that they have to attend to, and they really support each other in trying to tie up their earthly loose ends.
God? The Big Giant Head? 42?
Basically the only thing I didn’t really love in this book was the God-like being. I felt like “The BOY (Boss Of You)” as it/they/he/she is called was a little too out there. It was the biggest detraction from the overall charm of this story, and I would have liked a clearer picture of who is pulling all the strings and why they/it/he/she makes certain decisions. Like, what makes the universe actually tick? This was left pretty unclear, and that bothered me like a gnat that just won’t stop buzzing around in your ear.
This is definitely a book that falls on the quirky side of the YA spectrum, which is in my wheelhouse. I think there will be people who might be disappointed that there isn’t more in the way of explanations or backstory about the afterlife (especially about the BOY), but that didn’t bother me. This was a very character-driven book, so I didn’t need a ton of world-building, and in fact, I think any more world-building might have bogged this story down. I loved how light and fun this read was, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is a fantastical-contemporary-romance with a dash of magical realism; which is apparently a combination that works very well if you’re Judy Sheehan. I’m going to be the first in line to buy her next YA book!
Rating: 5/5 stars