Seventeen-year-old Dino DeLuca is helping out his parents by doing cosmetology work at the family funeral home, a job at which he excels. One of the bodies he must work on is that of July Cooper, his longtime but estranged best friend with whom he has lost contact for the past year since becoming involved with Rafi, his trans boyfriend. Having died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm, July’s arrival at the mortuary in Palm Shores is sad and unsettling until July sits up on the steel table and starts talking to Dino while he is putting makeup on her face. This is particularly unusual because all of July’s innards, including her brain, have been removed, though she hasn’t been embalmed because her parents want a green burial.
July proceeds to resume her relationship with Dino as they try to figure out why she’s dead/not dead and what to do about it. In the meantime no one else in the world appears to be dying, people are remarking on the “miracle,” and business is slacking off at mortuaries everywhere. July is careful not to show herself where she will be recognized, but she does attend a party at Rafi’s house under an assumed name, has encounters with a theater classmate who recognizes her, and generally comports herself around her hometown as a normal person, except she is decomposing, releasing gas and smelling really bad.
This clever, funny, inherently sweet story examines the worth and nature of friendships as they change and–in the best cases–endure in spite of and because of evolving awareness and maturation of the participants. It also addresses issues of gender stereotypes, the necessity of learning to value oneself in order to value others, the awkwardness of new romances, the difficulty teenagers have in asserting themselves against preconceptions of parents, and, of course, the idea that it is death that gives meaning to life.
This book has the usual language issues (shit-fuck-ass-hell-damn-dick, etc.), including some religious profanities that caught me unawares, given the book’s theme of death and the afterlife, but let’s face it, this is not meant to be a serious treatment of the subject. There are some sexual references but no sex, just kissing and hugging.
Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Diversity, Fantasy, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Peer Relationships, Supernatural/Occult, Theatre & Film