Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike is a fun, lively young adult novel about making amends (available April 30, 2013).
When Jeff moves from Arizona to California it means a new school—Whitestone Academy—and new uniforms, and new people. His first day actually begins promisingly enough. He meets a hot blonde named Kimberlee, who just happened to be lying down in the middle of the school’s hallway. But what started with such potential quickly turns sour.
On the surface, meeting Kimberlee is a wonderful social opportunity. She’s the daughter of a powerful local judge. She knows where all the hot parties are. She has a bright smile and sassy attitude. There are just a couple problems Jeff can’t get past:
1. She’s a thief.
2. She’s dead.
And she needs Jeff’s help.
Her perfectly plucked eyebrows furrowed. “Look,” she began hesitantly, “you can see me. And hear me. So you’re the only one who can help me. You have to say yes.”
I sighed. “What do you need help with?”
“My unfinished business.”
“In books and movies people become ghosts when they have unfinished business. That must be why I’m still here.”
“Did someone tell you that? Did you have some, I don’t know, angel, I guess, tell you what you need to do?”
She shook her head. “Uh-uh. I just woke up in the middle of the school and I was dead. I’m guessing on the rest.”
The “help” that Kimberlee needs is Jeff’s assistance in returning items that she stole from people when she was alive. Kimberlee wasn’t your average kleptomaniac though. When she leads Jeff to her stash, he discovers there are hundreds of items—sorted and cataloged—that need to be returned. Turns out Kimberlee was a one-woman thieving ring prior to her death. She had captured the attention of Whitestone’s principal as well as the local police. A Big Deal.
Returning the stolen goods is going to attract a lot of attention:
“Okay,” I said as I scrambled to my feet. “Where’s the stuff?”
She tilted her head to the back of the cave. I turned and blinked, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. When they finally did, my jaw dropped.
There must have been a hundred boxes stacked in the back of the cave, which was way deeper than I expected. “A few things? A few things! Are you insane?” My voice echoed through the cave, repeating the words back to me.
But Kimberlee is sincere in wanting to get the stolen goods back to their proper owners. While Pike keeps the narrative in first-person, with a really tight focus on Jeff’s experiences and troubles, the still does a beautiful job of keeping Kimberlee-the-ghost real. Even though the ghost is dead, she can feel. Deep down, the story is about Kimberlee learning what she needs to learn…which she couldn’t do when she was alive. Her moments of realization are heartbreaking.
Life After Theft is fun and sassy, but also emotionally truthful. What happens to us after we die? If we move on, where do we move on to? Those questions apply specifically to Jeff and Kimberlee—who both have proof there is something to the other side. But there are more universal questions posed in Pike’s novel that apply to all of the characters: Can we reconcile who we were with who we are? How can we atone for our pasts? Pike wrestles these themes with smart-ass style, which, in a way, makes it far more moving when the epiphanies come.
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.