It's a Wonderful Death
by Sarah J. Schmitt
Sky Pony Press | October 6, 2015
        Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?
        But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.
Now, let me begin by saying that I'm not a huge fan of It's a Wonderful Life, so I was skeptical when I first saw this book's title. It's obviously a play on the aforementioned title. Luckily, that's pretty much the only similarity that the book has to the movie.

It begins with the death of RJ Jones.

Weird, right? Usually when the protagonist dies, it means the book's over (unless you're Harry Potter). But unlike those other deaths, RJ's death was a mistake of the grim reaper. You see, he was meant to pick up a fortune teller's/Romani's soul (I'm not really fond of the term 'gypsy', even though that's what the book uses) but the woman used RJ as a shield, and so, her fate was sealed.

But of course, RJ can't have that! It's revealed that she's a major brat, and was a major brat even before this whole misunderstanding. But my point is, that when told that she would be stuck with the dead, she was like
And although she's snobby, rude, arrogant, self-centered and just kind of annoying, it's sort of hard not to root for her once you see how determined she is. Then again, she's still annoying, you kind of want to reach into the book and shake her, because she's seeing what happens after death and she's not even a little bit excited!

The rest of the book (don't worry, no spoilers here) covers her journey back to mortality, including a whole court trial that she has to go through. She is judged on whether her going back to Earth is even a good thing, considering her obtuse personality. She gets to change some things about herself, and learns some thing about herself. And to be honest, it's kind of sad to watch her realize how awful she used to be. 

My one critique is that RJ changes a little too quickly; it feels sort of rushed. It's kind of understandable, she does spend a lot of time being a jerk. IT'S IMPORTANT TO MENTION THAT SUICIDE IS IN THE BOOK. If that makes you uncomfortable or will trigger you, you probably shouldn't read it. Nothing explicit, just the mention, but still.

I do have another critique, but it's a spoiler, so let's just say that the end of the book will have you going
Ultimately, it's a fairly humorous story, and it's well-written. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to read about fantasy, or fantasy worlds hidden in our own mundane one. 

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