by Aprilynne Pike
To be published by Harper Teen
on April 30, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss.
Buzzwords: guy meets ghost, shoplifters anonymous, teen pregnancy, Lloyd Dobler
Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto. No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice.
My take: I've never read any of Aprilynne Pike's Wings series, so I had no idea what to expect from Life After Theft. And, until I sat down to write this, I didn't know that Life After Theft was a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel -- which I've also not read.
Since that whole Pimpernel business went -- whoosh! -- right over my head until now, I'd describe Life After Theft as The Ghost and the Goth meets My Name is Earl. In other words, a guy meets a girl ghost who needs his help making amends for some of the crappy stuff she did when she was alive.
The story is told from Jeff's POV. As he starts a new school in Santa Monica, he's shocked that he can see and hear a bossy, snarky dead girl named Kimberlee. She's thrilled that she finally has someone to talk to, and asks Jeff to help her return all this stuff she stole when she was alive. And we're not just talking about a lip gloss and an electric toothbrush here. She stole a LOT of stuff.
Sidenote: I'm not even kidding about the electric toothbrush. Did you know that is one of the most commonly shoplifted items in America? Along with vacuum cleaners? I would never condone stealing, but I need to know: how does person shoplift a vacuum? You can check out the whole list of most commonly shoplifted items here.
In Life After Theft, kleptomania meets atonement: Jeff returns Kimberlee's stuff and, as he does, leaves this little rose calling card behind. (I thought that was a little odd as I was reading, but again, I didn't make the whole Scarlet Pimpernel connection. I have also learned that while a scarlet pimpernel sounds like a bad kind of acne, but it's actually a flower, and also the calling card left by Sir Percy in the book as he rescued people from the guillotine during the French Revolution.) Soon people in Jeff's school are up in arms, trying to figure out where all the stolen stuff has come from, who took it, and who's returning it.
While I mostly enjoyed Life After Theft, I did think that some of the characters and plot elements could have been more thoroughly developed. Plus, a couple remarks that Jeff made in relation to women had me cringing just a little.
But here are some things I did like about the book:
- No love triangle. Though there are two girls in Jeff's life during the book, one stays strictly in the Friend Zone.
- Jeff's parents are both present, and -- in an interesting, not-typical-for-YA-twist -- Jeff's mom got pregnant with him in high school and his parents managed to make things work, which is a nice counterpoint to those pregnant teen reality horror shows. (In a nice touch, they also don't try to pretend that their situation was ideal and, when they realize that Jeff is having sex, talk to him about responsibility and birth control.)
- Jeff has a Lloyd Dobler moment. Man, those get me every single time.
If you love the idea of guy meets ghost, or if you've read and enjoyed The Ghost and the Goth, or if you are looking for a light contemporary YA with romance and a hint of the paranormal, check out Life After Theft.