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Some people say that your life flashes before your eyes when you die. What really happens is that you see all the things you didn’t do in your life. All the words unspoken, the actions not taken, and finally the biggest and darkest regrets like lightning.
If you’re in search for that rare ‘just-can’t-put-it-down’ book, then look no further than Jessica Branton’s debut YA novel, How to Experience Death for Beginners! Published on February 14th 2019, Jessica Branton’s novel is the ultimate page turner filled with romance, mystery, and even paranormal aspects – everything possibly needed to create such a gripping tale.
The story itself revolves Casey who, ever since she was seven years old, has the ‘gift’ of clairvoyance. This gift allows her to see when someone is dying, as well as feel what they feel and witness their life through a series of flashbacks, making the term ‘life flashing before one’s eyes’ all too real… The novel explores her unwillingness to get close to others due her ability and also sees it put to the test when the new boy Cameron moves to town from California and Casey is unable to stop herself from slowly falling for him. However, with Cameron also comes tragedy and when a series of killings begin to occur throughout town, Casey must use her ability in order to solve the mystery, catch the killer, and save those she loves…
One of the clever moves on Jessica Branton’s part in the writing of this novel was the use of the first person narrative when telling the story. This allows readers to follow the story from Casey’s perspective, allowing them a greater insight into the main characters mind and evoking a flurry of emotions within the reader throughout as they follow Casey on her journey, face her struggles as though they are the readers own and try to solve the mystery alongside her. From the very first page to the very last, readers are bound to be engrossed in the plot and will no doubt have their own suspicions as to who the killer is.
Jessica Branton’s impressive writing style leaves the reader following bread crumbs throughout the story and working their way through a series of suspects as they – and Casey – attempt to identify who the killer is. For the entirety of their reading experience, the reader can expect to be kept on the very edge of their seat and unable to put the book down and the plot thickens and they find themselves inevitably craving to know more.
Another greatly admirable aspect of this novel is that it does not shy away from the more taboo concepts or themes such as death, self harm, stalking, homophobia, and domestic abuse, but instead focuses on them greatly. Throughout the story line, these various issues are addressed through the characters which Jessica Branton has created to create a tale which highlights, ultimately the importance of family, friendship, love, life, and those things which are valued by us all as human beings. The theme of friendship and love, especially play a highly significant role throughout Jessica Branton’s novel and it is through the characters – particularly the close-knit group of friends who Casey has – that we as readers get to experience these themes.
The characters who are included within this story of life and dead, good and bad, love and loss each play a vital role in the telling of Jessica Branton’s story. From the main character Casey to characters less involved in the main events within the plot, there is no character mentioned who does not have some kind of impact on the other characters or story line. Each character is individually crafted in a way that allows for them to come across even on paper as well-rounded characters and human beings in their own right. They are extremely relatable in that each individual character is undergoing their own challenges and facing their own demons throughout the book which many readers can relate to in their own ways.
Overall, for a debut novel, How to Experience Death for Beginners is a very well written book that readers are bound to read more than once and Jessica Branton should be praised for such an impressively written piece.