Best Friends Through Eternity

192p. Tundra. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781770497108.
Gr 7–10—At the moment of her sudden death, Canadian 14-year-old Paige meets a long-ago friend on a beach in the afterlife and gets the opportunity to relive/redo the last week of her life. An adopted child from China, she uses the time to research her adoption and that of the friend she encounters in death but also must take a different attitude toward the bullies at her school in the hopes of changing her fate. This is a nicely paced story with solid characters. American readers may wonder at some Canadian English words and phrases (for example, they wear tuques instead of hats), but most meanings can be derived from context. The narrative remains compelling despite minor inconsistencies in the characters' emotional voices and reactions. Paige, for instance, sometimes makes huge leaps in self-confidence that seem rather contrived. The anti-ethnocentric message feels very purposeful: the premise relies on well-behaved, smart Asian kids who are bullied by a group of white girl jocks who are stereotypically racist and ignorant. A Hindu family is depicted as close-minded about girls' liberation, and a Mandarin-speaking Chinese father surprises the protagonist by being accentless, tall, and adept at making great pizza. The title and jacket art are misleading; very little of the book revolves around the afterlife, which is decidedly irreligious in nature.
VERDICT This is far less polished and mature than Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall (HarperCollins, 2010) and far less exciting than William Sleator's 1999 classic Rewind (Dutton), but will be a solidly satisfying read for many middle school girls.

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