Published by Delacorte Press on March 22, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
When Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America, she learns that not only was she murdered, her killer is still on the loose.
When you’re sixteen, you have your whole life ahead of you. Unless you’re Sarah. Not to give anything away, but . . . she’s dead. Murdered, in fact. Sarah’s murder is shocking because she couldn’t be any more average. No enemies. No risky behavior. She’s just the girl on the sidelines.
It looks like her afterlife, on the other hand, will be pretty exciting. Sarah has woken up dead at the Mall of America—where the universe sends teens who are murdered—and with the help of her death coach, she must learn to move on or she could meet a fate totally worse than death: becoming a mall walker.
As she tries to finish her unfinished business alongside her fellow dead teens, Sarah falls hard for a cute boy named Nick. And she discovers an uncanny ability to haunt the living. While she has no idea who killed her, or why, someone she loves is in grave danger. Sarah can’t lose focus or she’ll be doomed to relive her final moments again and again forever. But can she live with herself if she doesn’t make her death matter?
When I saw the title of Judy Sheehan’s I Woke Up Dead at the Mall, I couldn’t not pick up a copy. And while it wasn’t one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year, it was definitely entertaining and enjoyable enough to stick with.
Sheehan’s novel follows the afterlife of Sarah, a young girl who dies after eating mushrooms at her father’s wedding. And what’s even worse, she dies in a mango chiffon bridesmaid gown. And where else would a dead teenager from New York City wake up but in the Mall of America. In order for Sarah to move on, she needs to complete her unfinished business, but that’s easier said than done when Sarah doesn’t even know who poisoned her mushrooms, let alone how she’s supposed to finish business she wasn’t even aware that she had.
Sarah is joined by several other murdered teens on her journey, all of which have tragic death tales all their own. And, of course, there’s a wonderfully attractive dead boy for Sarah to have an afterlife romance with. But romance isn’t what Sheehan’s I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is about. What it is about is learning to fix what you can control and accept what you can’t. It’s simple, as far as morals go, but effective none the less. And it’s enjoyable watching Sarah and her friends discover this idea for themselves, especially as you watch each one confront the tragedy of their deaths and those who are responsible for them.
And I know what you’re thinking. A book about a bunch of dead teenagers has to be depressing. Actually, Sheehan’s writing is incredibly witty and funny, and I loved each voice she writes. They were all so diverse and colorful that I could really tell where one character ended and another began. And FUNNY! Sheehan wrote some really great one-liners, as well as some wonderful dry humor for each character that I can’t help but praise. I laughed out loud several times, which gives this novel some major points.
What I didn’t like as much was the ending. I felt it was too dry for a novel that was so well-written in the beginning and middle. It was almost as if Sheehan felt too rushed at the end to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. And the choice Sarah makes felt a bit out of character and unsettling.
I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is a solid read, but be prepared for an ending that lacks the same shine as the rest of the novel.