March 27, 2016

Review: I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall
Author: Judy Sheehan
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Humor
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers


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. I WOKE UP DEAD AT THE MALL is a terrifically fun & voicey YA novel that tackles some of life’s – and the afterlife’s – biggest questions.

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?
I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is a young adult fantasy novel that deals with heavy issues - death, grief, the afterlife, love, and much more - with a fun and witty heroine who lightens the tone throughout the book. In short, Sarah (our main character), wakes up at the Mall of America - after being murdered. She was an average teenage girl and it doesn't make sense that someone would kill her - and her killer is still on the loose. Sarah has to deal with her death and clear up unfinished business before she can move on. If she can't do it in time, she'll become a "mall walker" - a ghost who's stuck at the Mall of America forever. Will Sarah be able to protect her loved ones, finished her unfinished business, and move on in time - or is she destined to relive her final moments for the rest of eternity inside the Mall?

I don't normally read a lot of YA contemporary fiction because it usually feels really redundant and overdone. It's like there's a template for the genre and each book fills in the blanks with their own story - characters, setting, a small difference in the plot - but essentially the same. I'll be honest when I said that I didn't have very high hopes for this book. It sounded like another story about a dead teen who's now a ghost and has to figure out something important before they could move on - again, redundant. And that's pretty much exactly what this book was. I enjoyed reading it more than I had expected beforehand, which was a nice surprise. One of the biggest aspects of the story that impacted my reading experience was the writing style. The author used the first person point of view for the book, so we got to see and hear everything from Sarah's perspective. I'm always a huge advocate for first person POV because it lets the reader form a much deeper connection with the narrator than any other style. It usually feels like the story is being told to me by the main character - or even like I'm right there alongside them throughout the book. In my opinion, the author made a great choice when selecting this writing style, and it's definitely something that stood out for me and made me like the novel a little more. Everything else - characters, setting, overall plot and story including the romantic elements - was pretty generic to me and didn't really stand out at all. Don't get me wrong, the writing was well done and detailed - there's nothing wrong with the story at all. This is simply my personal opinion, and I know tons of other readers will really enjoy this book. Maybe it's because this isn't a favorite genre of mine and I came into it expecting the whole "template" thing - but I wasn't really blown away by this novel. It was a light and quick read with some funny parts (I especially liked some aspects of the main character's personality), but that's about it for me. Again - this is solely my opinion of the book and I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with it at all - it just wasn't for me. If you're a fan of YA contemporary fiction, fantasy, paranormal, humor, or romance - you should give this book a shot.
 The first thing to know about Judy is that she is the tenth of twelve children. Upon learning this fun fact, many people need or want to know certain statistics about her family of origin, so here goes: The age range of the children is twenty-one years from oldest to youngest. There are eight boys and four girls. There is one set of twins. There is one mother and one father. The family house had seven bedrooms, but only one bathroom. Today, Judy has one child, and is actively considering the installation of a second bathroom in her home.

Judy started life wanting to be a writer, but found herself distracted by the fun and drama of local theater. She studied acting and made a brief, but valiant effort to be an actress. She was one of the original cast member/creators of the long-running hit, TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING. This adventure led to a handful of commercials, a few other projects and the revelation that she was simply not meant to be an actress. Full stop.
Playwright was the next logical role for Judy, who was lucky enough to serve as the playwright-in-residence at New York’s prestigious Looking Glass Theatre, which produced her plays every season. Productions have included WHAT TO DO ABOUT NOTHING, A CAROLE CHRISTMAS and APHRODITE’S DUNGEON, among many others. She collaborated with Kenneth Nowell to create a series of musicals for children:  I WAS A 9-YEAR OLD BLUES DIVA, I HATE SPINACHas well as the work-in-progress, I’M SO INCREDIBLY BORED.
Meanwhile, Judy managed to reach beyond Manhattan to infiltrate the heartland with her play, ALICE IN IRELANDIt  has been produced all over the United States, winning the Reva Shiner Full-Length Play Contest, and the Siena College International Playwrights’ Competition. The play was also chosen by the Kalamazoo Gazette as the #1 Critics’ Pick for 1999. Her play, BRIGHT GIRLS, STUPID LIVES, was a critical and popular success in Portland, OR where it was nominated for a Drammy Award. Judy wrote the popular MURDER AT WATERLOO for historic Waterloo Village. The initial run proved so successful, the play has returned for three subsequent productions.In September, 2000, Judy traveled to China and adopted a baby girl.  Along with motherhood, came sleep deprivation and a drastic reduction in Judy’s ability to attend rehearsals in the city or anywhere else. By all common sense, the overwhelming task of raising a child should have brought an end to Judy’s ability to write anything at all. But if you’ve been reading closely, you’ll see that common sense hasn’t applied very well so far. Judy found herself writing more than ever—she  just had to wait until the baby was asleep.
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*Biography & photo taken from author's website.*
A big thanks to the wonderful people at Random House Children's Books for sending me a copy of the book for review!

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