Simon & Schuster, 2006 (2006)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
is most unusual. It begins when the fourteen-year-old leads, chocolate-smeared Nick and feisty Allie, die in a collision between the two cars in which they were passengers. Heading through a tunnel towards the light, they collide and take a detour. They awaken nine months later as
, in a very odd world indeed, a '
space between life and death.
hey're introduced to it by Lief, who's spent a very long time alone in a special forest. Parts of this afterlife environment are solid, while others (the world they've left) are not - they sink through the latter if they don't keep moving. Though Lief urges them to stay in the trees with him, Nick and Allie are curious and set out to explore, followed by their new friend. Lief warns them of the danger of sinking through the Earth and of the monstrous, greatly feared
hey make their way, after a brush with a gang, to New York and the destroyed World Trade Towers which are solid in this world. There, Mary Hightower is in firm but gentle charge and welcomes
, offering them housing and encouraging them to play all day long, in routines that become addictive patterns, looping forever. Nick has a crush on Mary, arousing the fierce jealousy of her assistant Vari.
hat jealousy delivers Nick and Lief into the power of the
who has special powers. Luckily, Allie discovers that she does too, and can temporarily take over humans in the real world. After she sets out to rescue her friends, they all transfer from the frying pan into the fire, ending up in the power of the dreaded and rather mad
. But all is not lost as he craves Allie's power and demands that she teach him.
eal Shusterman displays a powerful imagination in
, a very strange tale indeed, filled with peculiar encounters and exciting adventures. And ultimately, Nick and Allie do find their true roles in
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