This novel follows the (after) life of Jana Webster. After dying in a freak bowling accident, she wakes up on a school bus surrounded by people she doesn’t know on her way to a Dead School feeling alone and out of place. The teachers are boring and nothing makes sense. Sliders, Grays, Risers, what did it all mean? How is she supposed to do this without Michael by her side? They do everything together and he must be going mad with grief now that she is dead. Desperate to communicate with him by any means necessary, she joins forces with the school’s number one baddie, a Slider named Mars Dreamcote. After attending her funeral and seeing Michael getting nearly molested by her “grieving” mother, she makes a radical decision. Why should they be forced to suffer through a lifetime without each other? The easy answer is that shouldn’t, so she devises a plan to kill Michael so they can be together forever. Before she can achieve that, she knows she must become a Slider. She is a Riser, which appropriately means she is on her way up after Dead School, whereas Slider’s fates are less fun. But while at Dead School, Sliders are more connected to the Earth so when visiting they can, if they choose to, be seen or heard by people and touch things whereas Risers are mere spirits unable to interact with anything while on Earth. Jana acts out in every conceivable way she can think of, doing everything from sneaking off school grounds at night to dancing topless at the school’s dance in order to be demoted to a Slider. The entire time she is trying to achieve this, Mars is trying to convince her that her memories from her last night are Earth are a bit biased and that maybe her death wasn’t an accident.
Initially I was rather annoyed with this novel. Jana was one of those super annoying girls who doesn’t seem to have a life at all away from her boyfriend. They are so intertwined that she always introduces herself as Jana Webster of Webster and Haynes (as in Jana Webster and Michael Haynes). I understand being a little too dependent on your significant other and feeling more than a little lost without them, but not being able to thrive at all is a little absurd. Deciding that you are so lost without them and that they must be just as lost without you so the best course of action is to kill them so you can be together is totally ludicrous. When she decides that this is the only suitable conclusion she can come to, I was shocked and very angry.
Really Jana? The only fucking solution is to murder him?!?!? What’s worse is she seriously believes this down to her core. With things heating up a little with the dreamy Mars who is constantly trying to tell her that her life wasn’t all that it appeared to be, I couldn’t believe she was still so dead set on murdering him. The only thing that stops her is the fact that if she kills him so will go straight to hell and therefore will not be able to be with him, which Mars only tells her after she succeeds in becoming a Slider. What kept me reading when I could barely tolerate her was learning about this completely unique world. Everything is so different and there are so many rules that are only vaguely referenced by her roommate. The only thing that is clear is that she shouldn’t be hanging around Mars and his friend Wyatt. But Mars seems to be the only person who actually thinks instead of blindly follow what he is told and he is the only one who can help her.
I loved that although this novel mainly follows Jana, you get to see a bit from other people’s perspectives, like Mars and Michael. Though I was more than a little shocked to find that Michael was a cheating asshat. Once again, I was totally in love with the main guy, Mars Dreamcote. Hot, funny, thinks for himself, secretly a good guy, the coolest name ever, the whole enchilada just had me wondering why Jana was chasing Michael instead of opening her eyes to gorgeous creation that is Mars. She shows some attraction to him, but never wavers from her devotion to Michael. Even when Mars tells her that Michael might be responsible for her death, she won’t even acknowledge that her death was could have been intentional, claiming that Michael was just paying a harmless joke that went wrong. What she doesn’t know yet is that Michael is an even bigger ass than even Mars thought he was and has been cheating on her for some time and planned to use the “harmless joke” to dump her. When she finally does get demoted to a Slider, everything changes. Because her demotion is due to a suicide attempt that Mars thwarted, Mars gets promoted to Riser while she gets demoted so he can no longer help her and she must soldier on with only Wyatt’s help. Confronting Michael and hearing him call her a “bitch” turns her world inside out and then she finally gets what she has been working for all this time. Michael accidentally falls to his death and ends up at Dead School with her and she wants nothing to do with him. But it’s all good because she seems to have found herself and she is now hopelessly in love with Mars.
This novel has a great ending. Although Jana’s narration is annoying, she gets better about halfway through the novel and once that happened, I couldn’t put it down. One of my biggest annoyance is Jana though is her use of the phrase “fart fudge popcorn” in lieu of cursing. Every single time she said it, I wanted to chunk the novel across the room and never pick it back up. I understand that some people don’t curse (though I don’t necessarily understand why…), but at least use something that doesn’t sound so ridiculous! I’ll take Zooey from Marked’s constant use of “bull poopie” over that. The other reason it bugged with is the fact that she is dead and she wants to be demoted so why not go the extra mile and start blurting out profanities like crazy? Even though she soon learns that it takes something major to get you demoted (not even dancing topless at a school function came close to having an effect), you should still do all you can to achieve the goal and I am sure that wouldn’t hurt!