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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*You Had Me at Halo* by Amanda Ashby - young adult book review
You Had Me at Halo
by Amanda Ashby
Ages 12+ 304 pages NAL Trade August 2007 Paperback    

Who knew that dying and going to heaven was going to feel like freshman orientation? One thing that Holly Evans does know for sure is that she is having a bad day, especially after she sees what she’s wearing in the open casket at her funeral, but flunking out of heaven never crosses her mind - that is, until her spiritual advisor finally runs out of patience with her for not reading the manual he issued her and for refusing to keep quiet while everyone watches her funeral from heaven’s Level One.

It is obvious to him that Holly has left too many unresolved issues back on Earth for her to reach a state of mind that will allow her to move up to Level Two and, ultimately, to Level Three, where her parents were waiting for her. Only one thing can be done to help her: he can allow her 48 hours to return to Earth to work on the two big issues keeping her from finding the peace of mind that she needs: that everyone thinks that her tragic death was a suicide, and that she has died before being able to accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal.

If Holly had read the manual, she would have known that nothing about a “manual purge” was that simple. Yes, she can return to her old life for 48 hours. But the catch is that she cannot have her own body back and can only return in the body of someone else whose soul has so recently left the body that it has not yet started to decay. In Holly’s case, that body turns out to belong to one of the computer guys who works at her old company, something that proves more than a slight complication since she has never operated a male body before.

Because her only alternative is to be demoted to hell for eternity, Holly decides to give it a shot and soon finds herself pretending to be Vince Murphy, computer geek, while trying to work out the earthly issues that are giving her so many problems at Level One. That would be difficult enough, but she soon learns that heaven’s employees are not exactly perfect themselves, and that she has been mistakenly placed inside the body of a man whose soul only appeared to be departing his body.

Suddenly she is having internal conversations with the real body’s owner, a young man who is not exactly pleased to find his body being controlled by the woman whose funeral he attended only a few hours earlier. Let the fun begin.

You Had Me at Halo, Amanda Ashby’s first novel, is a comedic look at the afterlife, one of those change-of-pace novels that seem to come along at just the right time. Ashby, who lives in New Zealand, began writing the book just three weeks after the death of her father and, with the book’s lighthearted approach, she has created a world that others who have experienced similar losses should find comforting.

But readers expecting just another feel good comedy about the afterlife will discover that You Had Me at Halo is also a charming coming-of-age novel. Holly Evans may have been an immature 22-year old when she died, someone who still judged her friends and co-workers by the same standards that determined who was popular when she was in high school, but she finally grows up during the 48 hours that she walks in the shoes of former geek Vince Murphy. This one is fun.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Sam Sattler/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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