Sonderbooks Book Review of

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall

by Judy Sheehan

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I Woke Up Dead at the Mall

by Judy Sheehan

Review posted September 3, 2018.
Delacorte Press, 2016. 278 pages.
Review written in 2017

Here’s how this book begins:

I woke up dead. At the mall. Still dressed in the (hideous) mango chiffon bridesmaid gown I was wearing when I died. My hair was still pulled back in an elaborate ponytail that was meant to look windswept, but trust me, it would have survived a tsunami. This proves that if you use enough product, your hair can endure things the rest of you can’t. My shoes sparkled in the light. My French manicure was unchipped. I was surrounded by waves and waves of mango chiffon.

Isn’t this perfect? I had actually kept my mouth shut, opting not to tell the bride that I’d never be caught dead in mango. Now here I was. Dead. In mango.

It turns out that the place where Sarah woke up dead is the Mall of America in Minnesota. She was from New York City. Most of the people can’t see her, but then she meets Bertha, her Death Coach. Bertha informs Sarah that she was murdered. (How can this be? Sarah didn’t know enough people to have enemies.) Bertha puts Sarah into a support group with other murdered teens from New York who need to move on. If they don’t move on, they’ll become mall walkers, walking through the mall reliving their deaths.

The teens in the group, one of whom is amazingly attractive, get to visit their own funerals and one day out of their past lives. All with the hope that this will help them let go and move on.

But when Sarah learns who killed her and that her father is in danger, she doesn’t want to move on without helping her father first. That little problem of falling in love isn’t going to help her move on, either.

Do I have to mention that I don’t think for a moment any of this will happen after anyone dies? Do I have to mention I don’t agree with the theology here? But this is a tremendously fun novel. I binge-read it in one sitting and enjoyed myself greatly. There’s mystery – who killed Sarah? There are fun characters and creative world-building. (How does this whole death thing work?) The characters are great, and they all have interesting back stories (which ended up getting them killed).

This is a fun read that leaves you smiling – about death. Sure, maybe you’ll think a little harder about how you live your life. But mostly you’ll enjoy watching a good kid named Sarah navigate a difficult and unfamiliar situation by not necessarily following the rules, but doing the best she can.