Where the Staircase Ends

245p. ebook available. Month9. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780986279386.
Gr 9 Up—Taylor Anderson's social life is in crisis when she is suddenly killed while crossing the street. She finds herself on "a giant stone staircase, clawing upward so the sky split into an endless stack of right angles." As she climbs the otherworldly staircase, the narrative of her ascent is interspersed with flashbacks telling the story of her friendship and eventual fallout with best friend Sunny. The drama between Taylor and her friends is clichéd, but the question of what will happen at the top of the staircase adds enough suspense to keep the story going. Unfortunately, the happy ending is too forced to be satisfying. Heavy use of metaphors, especially in the opening chapters, is at times vibrant and lovely, but others seem cheesy or convoluted. When her former friends believe the rumors that Sunny has spread about her, Taylor says, "The crowd's eyes had teeth and hands. I could feel them trying to eat me alive, pushing me down into the mud-colored carpeting like it was my grave." In many places, the flowery language disappears, replaced by Taylor's sarcastic narrative voice, or her exclamations of frustration, such as "If I was dead and this was the afterlife, shouldn't I at least have gotten a guardian angel greeting?" The result is an inconsistent tone.
VERDICT Although the writing isn't exceptional and the characters aren't memorable, the afterlife setting will serve as a hook that will keep many readers engrossed.

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