Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dead Rules

Russell, Randy. Dead Rules. New York: HarperTeen - HarperCollins Publishers, 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/10226008]

It was the first time Jana had thought the words Dead School.
But that was it. She was dead. And she was in school. They should put the name over the door so you didn't have to guess when you first got here.
Worse than that, she's alone. Surrounded by other dead teens, sure, but she might as well be stranded alone in the desert without Michael. She's sure he feels the same way. And since she can't go back to him, he must already being trying to figure out a way to join her. And if he's not, well, she'll help him.

This book was pitched to me as a cross between Romeo and Juliet and Heathers. That was certainly enough for me, and I'm guessing it's going to be enough for a lot of you as well. If it's not, or if you're unfamiliar with the genius that is Heathers (or you're talking to a group of teens who've yet to see it), don't worry. Dead Rules is great, and familiarity with Heathers is certainly not necessary in order to understand this book. Some would say it is necessary for life in general, but I would never try to force my subversive loves on all of you (though the links above lead to some pretty great/convincing pics from the movie). ;)

Jana is absolutely heartbroken to be away from Michael in the afterlife. She is one of those girls who does not exist outside of her relationship. She even introduces herself as Jana, of Webster and Haynes (as in Jana Webster and Michael Haynes). I have to admit that I kind of hate those girls. In the beginning of this book, Jana was no exception. Luckily she pairs up with Mars Dreamcote (yes, it conveniently rhymes with dreamboat) pretty quickly. I don't know that I would have been able to stick it out through a whole book of her otherwise, and that would have been a shame. This book is more than just Jana and her longing for Michael. It's also about Jana's adjustment to the afterlife, Mars's lack of adjustment, Arva, Beatrice, Christie, Wyatt(!), the grays, and the virgins.

The social hierarchy of Dead School, like that of any high school, is complicated to outsiders, and I liked watching Jana figure out how to navigate and then ignore it. The sliders vs. risers was something that I wished was explained a little bit more, but it's clear that Jana (and we) find out everything that the students know about why most people end up in one of these two groups. Any more information would have made this a completely different book as it would have required more sleuthing and less Michael's-death planning. Getting all her information from other students definitely enhanced the story. As Jana gets to know her roommates, Mars's slider buddies, and other folks around campus, she also gets to hear their death stories, and I LOVED reading everyone's death stories. They very nicely ranged from the ridiculous to the very, very serious/tragic.

Overall, Dead Rules is a fun read! It's less romance-y than your average paranormal romance. In fact, it kind of pokes holes in the idea of blind devotion and teenage lurv that lasts for all eternity. That and the dark humor made it a great fit for me, and I think other readers who roll their eyes at flowery proclamations and super-serious feeelins will love it too (as will the average Heathers fan). Those looking for the story of a love that continues beyond the grave may not.

Dead Rules comes out today and is now available for purchase!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.

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