Creeperific cover eh? For the first few days I had this book, I really wanted to spin old school and make a brown paper bag cover for this bad boy, the cover freaked me out so much. However, about three days into reading, I realized that the back is the same, only different (wha?), so instead, I just remembered to keep the book face down on my bedside table. That and the description made me think it would be somewhat scary and it’s not at all. In fact, it’s just plain fantastic. Super fantastic. One of my favorite reads of the school year so far.
Jana Webster is one half of Webster and Haynes – champion debate duo and soul mates – and when she dies in a freak bowling accident, she is sure that her boyfriend, Michael Haynes, is absolutely devastated without her. She’ll do anything to have him join her at Dead School – the purgatory high school all teens go to between life and death.
The first thing I love about this book is Dead School itself. What a great idea! Real high school is kind of like purgatory for most of us, but it’s also a time where we figure out who we are (er…try to) and what we want to do with our lives. Dead School is similar in that kids are divided into different groups – risers, sliders, grays and virgins. Grays are students who took their own lives and are servants in the afterlife. Virgins are…well were…yeah, you get it…and they are the messengers for the powers that be. Risers are students who lived decent lives and died, usually by accident, and will most likely “rise” when they’re done with Dead School (a time frame that no one knows or understands for the record). Sliders are the opposite. These are the kids who lived life on the sketchy side and many died while in the middle of some illegal or dastardly deed (what a great word – dastardly!).
Jana dies and is a Riser, however, in order to help her boyfriend die, she must become a Slider – something that rarely happens in Dead School. In order to become a Slider, she’ll need the help of Mars Dreamcote – the handsome Slider with a secret or two. Mars is the second thing I love about this book. He is not what he seems and he is one of the most real, honest, fantastic kid…er dead kid…you can imagine. I kept thinking of some of my classmates when I was reading about him – were the people we thought of as misfits and “bad boys” really just kids trying to make heads or tails of their lives? If you can read this book and not fall in love with Mars, you’re heartless (ok, maybe not, but still, you might want to have yourself checked out by a professional).
Jana is also an excellent character. Her death makes her reexamine her life, and though this isn’t a new concept, Russell definitely puts a new spin on it. Her drive to become a Slider and thus help her devoted boyfriend join her in the afterlife is so focused, she completely misses out on some big details just like she did while she was alive. When it all becomes clear to her, her change/revelation/epiphany – whatever you want to call it – is fantastic (if not just a wee bit predictable).
Yeah, so basically Dead Rules is an awesome book that I would recommend to anyone who likes realistic fiction that is set in a science fiction world. Oh, and anyone who likes a laugh. It’s darn funny – the stories of how all the characters die are hilarious as are the dialogue and the rules of Dead School.