Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
After reading Margarettown (see this post) I was keen on reading more of Zevin's work. I appreciate her perspective and enjoy her writing.
Elsewhere is less complex than Margarettown (this is a good thing especially because the target audience is younger), but no less profound. Its focus is the afterlife, specifically the afterlife of a teenage girl who was killed in a traffic accident.
Zevin seems to deliberately shy away from the issue of religion. The protagonist's admissions counselor informs her that "God's there in the same way He, She, or It was before to you. Nothing has changed" (78). While she is taking the path of least resistance by doing so, I think it makes the book more universally approachable (and ultimately, I think, that's the most important thing).
I really like Zevin's view of the afterlife (though I won't spoil it here for those who haven't yet read the book) and I've been trying to figure out how I would have responded to this book if I'd read it when I was younger (my best friend died when we were nine). I think that I would have responded positively to Elsewhere. I think that I would have found this alternate afterlife comforting, particularly the ways that the dead are able to continue living while in Elsewhere. But I also know that each of us grieves differently and responds to things like this book in different ways so when it comes down to it I can't say for sure that this would be a good book for someone who has recently experienced the loss of a friend or family member. I would easily recommend to those who are not grieving though.