Title: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker
Author: Lauren James
Release Date: 3rd Sept 2020
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 41
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Walker Books , via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
From Goodreads: “Congratulations, new kid. Welcome to the afterlife.”
What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.
This was my first Lauren James and I really liked the writing style. I really enjoyed the structure to this book, all the different perspectives and the omnipresent narrator that popped in and out giving us a little more context of the past and how it all comes together with the events of the present. I also really liked the build towards the reveal of who the narrator is in regards to our other characters.
The Characters really make this book. All of them are dead! Roaming around as ghosts and having a rather fulfilling afterlife. Which is a really interesting concept to begin with. A small group have formed a little found family, which is a trope I really love. This is especially sweet in this book as we get to know these members we can tell they didn’t really feel they fit anywhere in life so it made this family in the afterlife so much more important.
A number of these characters died in the 1990’s which when our eponymous hero finds herself spending her afterlife among them lead to some really awesome 90’s references and in-jokes. This I think sets the audience for this book. It is definitely a New Adult book. It is set on a University campus with the characters being of university age and while the current crop of Undergraduates are to young to remember the 1990’s the older readers, like myself (not that old – I was 3 in 1990) can remember some of the references so can connect with both the modern and 1990’s group on both levels and that really pulled me into this story. The university setting is also really interesting. The run down, condemned student housing setting just adds this layer of grime over everything which when you remember these characters and ghosts stuck where they are it really adds to the atmosphere.
On top of this sweet found family we also have out MC – Harriet Stoker. She is a real anti – hero! Her behaviour is appalling and that is just awesome! She isn’t just morally grey she is down right vile, selfish and greedy. To have her as the main character is great especially as we get a lot of her inner monologue as to why she believes she is right to act the way she does.
However, the plot is where the book is let down a little. In the beginning it was amazing but for me it just kind of petered out. The big reveal and showdown happens about 80% of the way through and the foreshadowing of those events are really obvious. Which were just a bit of a let down. The romance was cute but nothing exciting and it all just left me feeling a bit meh compared to the strong start! That being said this was still a really enjoyable read and despite the end just not landing for me I still think it is excellent, very unique and different. Well worth the read.