Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Alyson Noel
Fiction  Series
For ages 10 to 12
Macmillan, 2010   ISBN: 978-0312629175

Riley Bloom, her mother, her father, and her dog Buttercup have all died in a car crash. For a while, Riley hangs around in a kind of waiting area, reluctant to leave the world of the living behind, but now she has crossed the bridge into the afterlife. The place is called Here, and time is always Now.

For a while, Riley enjoys creating an environment for herself that is as close to the one that she lost as she can make it. This is easy to do because in Here, all you have to do is to think of something you want and you have it. Then one day Riley’s parents inform her that the time has come for her to go to school. They tell her that she will like this new school, although Riley is not convinced. All she really wants is to go back to her old life. She wants to go back to her “real home, and live alongside my sister again.”

Riley soon discovers that school in Here is nothing like the school she went to in Oregon. Before long, she is summoned before the Council. After showing her a kind of movie of her life (which Riley finds quite painful,) the council members explain that Riley is going to be given an assignment. She is going to be a Soul Catcher, someone who goes back to the world of the living to help lost souls find their way to the bridge. Sometimes the souls are very reluctant to leave the earth plane, and Soul Catchers have to persuade them that this is the right thing to do.

Soon Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi, Riley’s new guide, are in a castle in England. Riley’s task is to encourage a spirit called Radiant Boy to cross over the bridge. Apparently, many Soul Catchers have tried to convince Radiant Boy in the past, and no one has succeeded. Riley cannot imagine that it will be hard to cajole a ten-year-old ghost to leave the castle, but she soon discovers that Radiant Boy is not at all what she expected. She discovers that her first mission is going to be a lot harder than she thought was possible.

Young readers will surely enjoy exploring the afterlife through the eyes of Riley. She is very self-centered tween who has to come to terms with the fact that she wasted a large part of her life being a pest who followed her sister around everywhere. Now Riley has to find out who she is, separate from her sister, and what she sees is not pretty. Riley’s struggles with herself, her perceptions of the world, and her new existence are both entertaining and interesting.

This is a very promising first title in a new series.