The Hereafter by Jessica Boucher
The Hereafter features Nin and Dylan, two teens who find themselves dead. Neither of them have memories of their deaths. Nin ‘awakes’ at peace–on a beach and in a seemingly idyllic place. Dylan find himself dead in a dumpster–disaffected and angry and bitter. At first, Nin and Dylan seem like they can’t be different people.
This story plays with memories, which I love. There’s an insubstantial quality to the Hereafter, which alternates with ‘Before’ chapters. Boucher’s flowing, wispy prose aids to this atmosphere and lends itself best to Nin’s chapters and character. Nin and Dylan piece together their memories, showing that Nin’s life wasn’t so peaceful after all. The mysteries of both Nin and Dylan’s lives are all in their memories, which kind of leaves the current story in the Hereafter feeling a little thin on stakes. That’s personal opinion, though, and if you’re okay with stories that are less action-packed, most of the momentum of the story taking place in Dylan and Nin’s memories will probably work better for you than it did for me.
A romance taking place in the afterlife…it’s kind of odd and yet sweet. Boucher’s writing sells the sweet romance aspect of this, and what initially attracted me to this book was the idea of how this type of afterlife romance would develop. Dylan and Nin bond over their problems, and Dylan opens up to Nin about his frankly shitting life. This drives Dylan away from Nin, but she has her own problems when she begins to remember her old boyfriend and Mrs. Frost. Both of these characters are intensely sympathetic…which was a bit boring to me? If you like commentary romance and contemporary YA, I think this story will work better for you than it did for me.
I don’t want to ruin the big twist in the story, but it did deliver. This story is 100% raw emotion and driven by the character’s feelings. There’s an underlying theme of forgiveness and atonement in the afterlife, which becomes pronounced the more the story progresses. There’s a fluidity to this story and a non-linear aspect to it that’s enchanting. It reminded me a bit of Everyday, which I really liked.
Notes: 3 stars not because it’s bad, but because it wasn’t 100% my thing. I think it was just too slow for me, but it’s beautiful writing and a lovely, non-linear YA magical realism story.