Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hereafter Book Review

Author: Tara Hudson. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780062026774.
Annotation:  Amelia knows one thing – she drowned in the river beneath High Bridge. She doesn’t remember when or why, and her afterlife seems to be an eternity of wandering, lost and alone. That all changes when she saves another life that is almost ended in the murky river water. The boy, eighteen-year-old Josh, can see Amelia, and their destinies appear to be forever connected.     
Personal thoughts:  Wow, I really enjoyed this novel. So much so that I read it in two days (something I don’t often do!) I am very impressed that this is Hudson’s first publication, and am certain that she, and this trilogy, have a very bright future. I think her greatest accomplishment was making the love between Amelia and Josh enjoyable, not overly dramatic, cliché, or mushy like other teen authors. I also really enjoyed the Oklahoma setting and bits of folk lore Hudson tossed into the story. I am very excited for the next installment!
Plot summary: Amelia can only remember a few things: her age, eighteen, her name, and that she drowned in the rushing waters of the river beneath High Bridge. She knows she’s a ghost, but can’t seem to control anything about her afterlife, instead, wandering, lost and alone in an unfamiliar town, unable to be seen or heard by anyone. That all changes when she is suddenly pulled into the river moments after eighteen-year-old Josh crashes his car through the metal girders of High Bridge and plummets into the murky depths. Amelia can sense that Josh is about to die, and just as his heart stops he opens his eyes and can truly see her. Somehow, miraculously, Amelia is able to save Josh and he escapes the treacherous waters. Amelia finds herself awoken after meeting Josh, especially when Josh returns to High Bridge to find the mysterious and beautiful girl he saw in the river. She no longer feels lost, and begins to sense things around her had long forgotten: scents, feelings, warmth. Josh doesn’t seem to mind that Amelia is a ghost, and as their relationship grows, they discover that true love extends into the afterlife. Their happiness is threatened, however, when Amelia encounters Eli, a dangerous ghost who reigns over High Bridge, collecting all the souls that perish in the river. Eli is determined to make Amelia his, and she soon finds herself in the midst of a supernatural love triangle.  Can Amelia discover the truth about her death and save herself from the clutches of the darkness lurking beneath High Bridge?
Review: This first installment in the Hereafter trilogy delivers a sweet and intriguing love story full of supernatural adventure, danger, and mystery. What Hudson has accomplished in this page-turning novel is astounding considering it is her first publication. The characters are given a depth often lacking in novels for young adults, and Hudson does an excellent job of creating an engrossing setting for the story to play out. Much of Hereafter reads like a mystery novel, with little being revealed about Amelia’s life, death or supernatural powers. The result is a story that keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the final pages. The love between Amelia and Josh contrasts well with the darker hues of the plot, adding a sweet and not overly-gushy romance that is pleasing to both teen and adult readers. The mysterious ghost, Eli, also makes for an intriguing nemesis for Amelia, one with depth and his own secrets to be uncovered. Overall, Hereafter is an outstanding ghost story that proves equally enjoyable for teen and adult readers. A very promising start for both Hudson and the trilogy.
Genre: Romance/Supernatural/Mystery
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series.
Themes:  Ghosts, supernatural, afterlife, love, fate.    
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information: First novel in Hereafter trilogy.
Discussion questions:
- Describe how Amelia’s afterlife differs from your own personal beliefs.
- Do you think religion played a role in how Hudson portrayed life after death?
- Do you know of any “cursed” locations, like High Bridge? Why do you think people label certain places as cursed or haunted? Can these feelings impact people’s actions in that location?
- Who or what do you think Eli’s “masters” are?
- Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one? What would you do if you saw one?
- What do you think lies ahead in Amelia and Josh’s story? What would you like to see happen in the second and third installments of the trilogy?


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