Learning IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH–Review & Giveaway

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Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a contemporary YA adventure from Sarah J Schmitt that’s just in time for Halloween. IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH is a cross between Mean Girls, Defending your Life, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I did enjoy this wild ride of one miscollected soul.

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its a wonderful death bigAbout the book:
Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

My Review:
Mean girl RJ is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s getting her fortune told at a Halloween carnival when the gnarled gypsy tosses her at the Grim Reaper. Gideon can’t undo the damage now that he’s collected RJ’s soul–even if it’s a mistake. She has no choice but to ascend to the Lobby with him. There, she watches as group after group of souls called to Judgement. She encounters a fellow soul unwilling to advance, Sandy, who’s awaiting her beloved James to arrive. Throughout, RJ is professing her frustration over being miscollected–and being a bit of a diva over it. Naturally, as RJ is a diva over everything.

She raises, in this case, holy hell, and it leads to an unprecedented Tribunal of angels who must decide if RJ’s worth the trouble of unraveling time to re-insert her into her timeline. And, honestly, the verdict is no. She’s been a nasty, mean, lying, conniving wretch of a girl–all in the pursuit of popularity. Her two Guardian angels help to plead her case, that she’s young a redeemable, but it is Death Himself who arranges a series of tests–to verify if RJ would make the right choices given the chance. She has spirit guides from her own life (ala A Christmas Carol) leading her back to three key times when RJ departed from a good path.

RJ is quite a character. She is unashamedly self-centered and made many, many wrong choices with her life, but she is adamant that she’ll do better. And, in many ways she does. The bulk of the book is her arguing her case to all and sundry, begging to be heard. And, even when she is heard, those in charge will likely not do as she wishes. Why should they, after all? She is not a worthy soul, in their opinion. And, they’re right. But this tough girl makes even her Grams proud as she meets and exceeds Death Himself’s challenges.

I will admit to being frustrated by the ending. I wanted so much for RJ to live the life I pictured for her, and sadly it’s not the case. That said, this was a fantastic redemption tale with a very human, and believable, main character. Her journey was quite a wild ride, and how she made amends was thoroughly believable. For all the Heaven and Hell parts of this book, it’s not preachy and it’s not churchy. Again, like A Christmas Carol, RJ must ponder the parts of her life that went wrong. She has to overcome her Mean Girls training and fight for the right to live a better life than the one she was collected from. I adored how the angels were honest. Brutally honest. RJ is little more than a pest, in their view. Turning back time is a huge undertaking–and opens the gates for other souls to complain that their time should not have been up. Oh, the legalities of final Judgement!

Interested? You can find IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH on Goodreads and Amazon

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Goodluck and keep reading my friends!

Early Praise for It’s A Wonderful Death
“Fun, Funny and Full of Life” – Kirkus Review

“A snarky joyride of a book with a deep moral core; long after you’ve finished laughing, you’ll still be thinking about RJ’s journey and perhaps asking yourself: What defines a life well lived?” – Mike Mullin, author of Ashfall

It’s a Wonderful Death is a wonderful gem.  Both snarky and uplifting, it sneaks inside you and makes you smile and cry at the same time.”
-Sarah Beth Durst, award-winning author of Vessel and Drink, Slay, Love 

It’s A Wonderful Death is a great mix of mirth, myth and metaphysics; I enjoyed it greatly and I’m certain that YA readers will as well.”
– Daniel Waters, author of Generation Dead

Mean Girls meets A Christmas Carol! Smart, sassy, and humorously original with clever world-building and a host of interesting characters, It’s a Wonderful Death will have you laughing out loud and rooting for RJ from the first page!”
– Amalie Howard, best-selling author of Bloodspell

“Just the kind of story I love — full of snark, heart, and contemplation about the meaning of life! It’s a Wonderful Death will get you thinking about what you want to leave behind and how you want to live until then.”
– Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of Tabula Rasa

“RJ’s witty narrative had me both laughing out loud and weeping into the pages. It’s a Wonderful Death is a delightful read that questions the butterfly effect of choices made…and unmade.”
– Danielle L. Jensen, author of Stolen Songbird

“You know a story’s going to be good when Death shows up as a surfer! I loved every bit of this funny and heartwarming tale of second chances.”
-Lisa Maxwell, author of Sweet Unrest

Sarah J. SchmittAbout the Author
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.

Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, is newly released from Sky Pony Press.

You can find Sarah online on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

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