Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike
Jeff moves to a new private high school where he meets Kimberlee Schaffer; resident ghost. Kimberlee is stuck and needs Jeff’s help to return everything she’s stolen if she’s to move on. Jeff, after disbelief and despite his reluctance, agrees. There are a number of plot holes. Would the American authorities be that lenient? I mean, I’m Irish and maybe they’d be like that in Dublin but I’ve never seen cops like these and I’ve been to the States six times. Secondly, the wrestling team don’t for a second question why they’re returning all of this stolen stuff. It strikes me as a bit weird. And lastly, Pike explains why Kimberlee was so horrible to Sera but I don’t buy it. How can you be so vicious for no real, solid reason? Fair enough if Sera beat her up but she never did anything to her. Interesting premise but poor execution.
The narrative is blurred. Sometimes, you feel like the story is being told by Jeff and other times, most of the time actually, it comes across as a teenage girl. The language is melodramatic and he makes gestures and speaks in a way that emulates the female characters in the story.
Besides his melodramatic language and his hyper self-consciousness, there are other instances that make Jeff read as a girl:
- “Why of course, I love basketball. Go team!” (58)
- He talks about the colour of Sera’s eyelashes under her mascara. At his age, I hadn’t a clue what mascara was. I can’t imagine many guys do, especially ones that don’t have sisters or close girlfriends.
- He talks about things being “chic” repeatedly.
- He kisses Sera and notes the vanilla taste of her lip gloss. Who – boy or girl – does this?
Jeff doesn’t read how he should but what about the other characters? Kimberlee is interesting at times but it comes across that she’s a vapid, calculating blonde and that’s about it. There’s no depth, no real emotion. I don’t buy her as a character though she is a breath of fresh air compared to the other characters and she brings a much needed sense of humor. Khail is a caricature jock. Officer Herrera is unlike any cop I’ve ever met. Sera is a funny one too. There’s something about her I just don’t trust. It feels like her character doesn’t come full circle by the end of the story. And don’t get me started on the housekeeper, Tina. When has an actual person ever sounded like this?
Quality of Writing: 8/20
Sometimes, I lost myself in the story and then I’d come to twenty or so pages that would pull me out of the world. It took me almost two weeks to read it. I was reading other books alongside it to try and maintain my interest. Poor word choices don’t help. On one occasion. Jeff slurs his words when he’s eating with Sera. Is he drunk? Because I associate someone slurring with drunkenness or someone having a stroke. Is Jeff having a stroke? Sadly, no. There’s another 200+ pages to work through.
I believe the high school setting I’m in but I feel that the unintentional boy-girl narrative viewpoint takes away from it. I also would have liked Pike to have dramatized more of the detail and added something to make it more special and memorable and set it apart from the thousands of other novels that are set in high schools.
Comparative Literature: 4/10
It lacks the excitement of a paranormal story and as a high school tale of drama, secrets and crushes, it’s about as exciting and enticing as having to take out the garbage on a Monday morning when you’ve overslept and you’re running out the door to catch the bus for work. If you’re going to go down the route of paranormal twists, you need to commit and make the supernatural element read strong. Pike focuses too much on the ordinary and not enough on the extraordinary. Jeff focuses more on Sera then the resident ghost in his bedroom.
Alyxandra Harvey’s Haunting Violet takes a similar angle but Violet reacts appropriately to the ghosts she sees and it’s undoubtedly the focal point of the story. Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed focuses on Helen and Lucas, their love and their hatred for each other. It’s set in a typical high school, a school that’s not unlike hundreds, if not thousands of others, around the States. What makes the story different is the mystery and passion between the two main characters. Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You takes a simple high school location but hers is a school for spies. The setting sticks in your mind as strongly as the sense of character and the plot. Life After Theft achieves nothing short of failure or, at the very least, sub-standard results in most categories. Luckily, I got the book for free. I don’t think this book is worth the paper it’s printed on.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- Weak characters that come off as flat caricatures
- A setting that’s like every other high school in every other American YA story
- A strong premise but weak delivery
- A male narrator that reads as a teenage girl
Overall Score: 41/100
Books You May Also Like:
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini – if you’re looking for a paranormal element with a pacy narrative and a strong romantic element
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey – if you want to see how ghosts in YA should be done with a personable narrator and interesting, 3-Dimensional characters (I can’t recommend this book enough!!)
I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter – if you want a high school experience with a twist (and a bit of character!)