** WARNING – MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD **
Honestly, there’s no way to review this otherwise, so read at your own risk.
Title(s): 18 Things, 18 Truths, and 18 Thoughts
Author: Jamie Ayres
Series: My So-Called Afterlife trilogy
Edition: Kindle e-books
Blurb (1st book only): Olga Gay Worontzoff thinks her biggest problems are an awful name and not attending prom with Conner, her best friend and secret crush since kindergarten.
Then, Conner is killed in a freak boating accident and Olga feels responsible for his death.
When she downs an entire bottle of pills to deal with the emotional pain, her parents force her into counseling. There, her therapist writes a prescription in the form of a life list titled “18 Things”: eighteen quests to complete the year of her eighteenth birthday.
But there’s more to Olga’s quests than meets the eye and when her therapist reveals a terrifying secret, her world is shaken.
There’s only one thing she knows for certain: her choices won’t just affect her future, but all eternity.
Review (for the series): Okay. It is rare that the first book of the series throws me completely for a loop, but this one did. To be honest, I didn’t really get into the first book. I thought it was sweet and life-affirming in a somewhat overly saccharine sort of way. A young girl almost commits suicide due to the guilt of not being able to save her friend from dying in an accident and comes up with a list of 18 things to do before her 18th birthday to teach her how to live. Her other friends rally around her, including one who was previously an enemy who she makes peace with, and they all graduate high school. Happy ever after, the end.
OR IS IT!!
Here comes the big spoiler for book one, so be prepared
No, actually it’s not it. See, I didn’t think this was a fantasy/paranormal book until the very, very end. It read like just a regular contemporary Christian fiction (Olga is very devout Catholic). Then comes the last few chapters, where you find out that Olga actually did die when she swallowed the pills and this whole year has been her in Limbo preparing to go into the afterlife. And the new guy, Nate, that she met soon after the accident? He’s dead too. The first book ends with them deciding to become spirit guides (like their therapist was – another late book reveal).
I was completely blindsided by this. Literally had no clue that was the direction we were headed. Like I said, it reads like a completely different genre, and then suddenly, we’re off to heaven. Or at least, the afterlife.
Of course, if I head read the GoodReads page, it is clearly listed as fantasy/paranormal. But still.
The second book involves Olga and Nate learning how to become spirit guides and being given their first charge – the daughter of the therapist who helped them. I have to say, this version of the afterlife is a very interesting take, especially as a version of Christianity. There are angels (including one that seems to crush on Olga a bit, which I did think was weird), but there’s also this very business-like atmosphere to it. Olga finds out that Conner, who did die for real, is not in this Limbo area, but is in Juvie, which is sort of a step down. He wasn’t as devout, so he is in a boot camp sort of situation (I think). Olga wants to rescue him, or at least see him again and make sure he doesn’t blame her for the accident. Unfortunately, she has to make a deal with a demon (yep, they’re in here too) in order to make it happen.
This is one of the things I didn’t necessarily like as much. Conner has apparently always loved Olga, but never told her. Seriously, folks. Tell people how you feel. It makes things so much simpler. The problem is that Olga and Nate sort of became a couple during their faux senior year. So here we have the classic YA love triangle. Except, you know, they’re all dead.
In the third book, Olga, Nate, and Conner actually get the chance to do everything over again. It was a bit convenient and contrived, but I forgave it because it made things very interesting. So Conner never died in the boating accident, so Olga never took the pills. And Nate survived his unrelated car accident, and still moved to Olga’s town. Except Conner has changed. He is reckless and lewd and downright awful.
Guess who has a demon stowaway!
Conner has some moments where he is able to get away from the demon, Samuel, and tell Olga that he is not always the one in control. They don’t know about the demon, so book three is all about them figuring out what is happening and finding a way to get rid of Samuel and seal him away. Which, of course, they do, but it was still very exciting.
So yeah. This nice, sweet contemporary YA book series turned into angels and demons and a fight between Heaven and Hell. And I have to say, it was pretty enjoyable. Some things were obvious and a bit overly done, but there were also lots of twists and turns that kept you guessing.
GoodReads rating: 4 stars for each book