Orca Book Publishers - YA & TeensAmazon Barnes and Noble Indigo Indie Bound
Logan always takes the easy way out. After a night of drinking and driving, he wakes up, only he’s dead. With the help of his guide, Wade, and the spirit of his grandmother, he realizes he has taken the wrong exit – he wasn’t meant to die. His life had a purpose – to save his sister – but he took the easy way out and he failed. Now, before he can move on to the afterlife, he has to try and save his sister from a future no child should face. He gets one chance. And this time he cannot fail.
The Year’s Best, 2006, Resource Links
PSLA Top Forty
What People Are Saying
a wonderful reading experience . . . a thoughtful, and thought-provoking book.
– Resource Links
teens will enjoy the fast pace, realistic dialogue and exploration of the theme of life after death.
– CM (Canadian Materials) Magazine
Fast-paced plot and constant pull of tension, Langston packs a lot of action into a brief story.
– KLIATT Review
An interesting look at how people can affect change.
– Children’s Literature
unpredictable and edgy.
– The Horn Book Guide
I sit beside Wade in the back pew. Organ music plays. Pale October sun shines through the stained glass windows. My school picture is up front, by the altar. It’s extra large, like they’ve blown it up or something. There are flowers all over the place and people too. I might know them but I might not. It’s like my memory is on pause. Only bits and pieces are getting through.
“Why’s my picture up there?”
Wade doesn’t answer. Feeling stoned, I don’t ask a second time. I don’t even try to figure it out. It hurts to think. Besides, I don’t care. I don’t care about anything.
Until I see Mrs. Shields pushing a wheelchair down the aisle.
“That’s Tom.” Suddenly I feel more awake. “My buddy.” Tom’s legs are in casts. Cuts crisscross his face. Was he in the accident too? I try to remember, but the lead in my head won’t go away.
“Hey, Tom, what happened? Tom! I’m over here.” But he doesn’t look at me. He stares at his hands instead. And then his mother wheels him past. “Tom, I’m back here! Tom!”
“He can’t hear you,” Wade says.
Wade’s full of shit. I open my mouth to argue but then I see Hannah. Coming down the aisle between her mother and father. My Hannah. Her long, blonde hair is messy straight, not curled and prissed up like normal. Her face is puffed, her eyes, red. She weeps into a tissue.
“Hannah!” I reach out. But she walks too fast. She’s gone before I can grab her.
“Everybody’s ignoring me!”
“They’re not ignoring you,” Wade says. “They can’t see you.”
His words don’t make sense. But I don’t have time to try and figure then out. Because then I see my parents and my sister, Amy. They come out a side door at the front of the church. Dad’s bent over like an old man. He’s on one side of Mom, Amy’s on the other. Mom looks like she can’t walk on her own.
I jump up and run down the aisle towards them. Moving sharpens my senses. I recognize people now: Mr. Levesque, my French teacher. The principal, Mrs. Edwards. Casual friends from the swim club. My aunt Susan and uncle Herb. Plus Tom and Hannah. Brian and Seth. Even their parents. I know everybody here.
My family sits in the front row, just the three of them. “Mom? Mom, it’s me! Logan.” I am so close I can see the purple smudges under her eyes, the wet tips of her eyelashes. Her lower lip trembles. She stares at me, says nothing.
I look at Dad. He whispers in Mom’s ear. I smell coffee on his breath. I see a cut on his cheek. I know it’s from shaving.
I run to my sister. “Amy, what’s with these two? Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.” But Amy’s clear gray eyes are shadowed; her face is pale. She fidgets nervously. Typical nine-year-old. I remember: she will be ten in three days; her present is in the car.
Why does the thought of the car leave me shaking?
At the front of the church, a man begins to speak. “We are gathered here today to honor the life of Logan Alexander Freemont.” I turn. A minister in white holds a small black book. “Let us pray.”
People stand. Voices rise.
So does my panic. It crawls up from my feet and takes over, bit by bit, until the fog in my brain is gone. Until I remember everything.
I am dead.
I look down. I see my gray sweatshirt. I touch my jeans. The denim is rough under my fingers. I run up and down the aisles, reaching for people. People I know. They slide. Or I slide. Or we both do. Either way, I can’t connect.
So I yell. I yell at my parents. At Amy. At Hannah and Tom. “I’m not dead! Look at me, guys, I’m alive. I’m here. It’s all a joke. Look.”
The only person who looks at me is Wade. “It’s no joke, Logan.” He’s half way across the church and his voice is soft and quiet but I hear him like he’s whispering in my ear. “It’s real.”
“I’m not dead. I’m still me. I still have a body and everything.”
“You are still you but you don’t have a body. What you’re seeing is a thought form.” He points to a tall gold urn up by the minister. “Your body is in there. You were cremated.”
Thunk thunk, thunk thunk. My heart pounds in my chest. Dread mushrooms in my stomach. Sweat beads on my forehead. “But everybody knows death is the end. That there’s nothing left but matter.”
“Death is only the beginning, Logan. Hannah knows that. Lots of people do.”
My brain feels like a nuclear explosion waiting to happen. I run back to Wade, grab him by his shoulders, press my fingers into the scaly snake skin of his tattoos. “If I’m dead, how come I can feel my heart beating? How can I touch you like this? Hear everybody talking? Smell those stupid lilies up there?”
“It’s the way it works at first,” Wade says. “It’ll change when you move on.”
“I don’t want to move on. I don’t want to be dead.” What I want is to wake up in my own bed and have all this be a dream.
“It’s too late, Logan. You’ve made your choice.”
“I didn’t choose. It was an accident.”
“There’s no such thing as accidents. You chose to die because you didn’t want to face your future.”
When I was a kid learning to swim, I almost drowned. It’s like this now. The same terror, the same helplessness, the same feeling that everything is out of my control.
I hear crying.
It is loud and painful. Frightening.
It is me.