The Afterlife
The Afterlife

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Annotation: A senior at East Fresno High School lives on as a ghost after his brutal murder in the restroom of a club where he had gone to dance.
Catalog Number: #4942
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition Date: 2005
Pages: 161 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-15-205220-8 Perma-Bound: 0-605-01567-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-15-205220-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-01567-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2003044995
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
Chuy, the victim of a murder, rises from his body to observe earthly goings-on, but he's more engaged with his life as a teenage ghost. The Latino neighborhoods of Fresno provide a solid setting for the fantasy, as tangible as Chuy's ghost is not. Ghostly romance, not tragic reality, the book ends with Chuy and a beautiful ghost named Crystal floating toward the afterlife amid Soto's poetic metaphors of autumn.
Kirkus Reviews
Seventeen-year-old Chuy dies in the opening scene of this view from beyond; thereafter the story is told by his ghost, "invisible and touchable as light." Stabbed three times after commenting on a guy's yellow shoes in the restroom of Club Estrella, Chuy never gets to dance with his friend Rachel. Instead, "like a balloon in the wind," he floats around town observing the life he's left. He meets and falls in love with Crystal, who has committed suicide, helps a dead homeless man, flies in formation with some geese, and even takes in a Raiders game. Chuy realizes that he'll soon be heading for the afterlife but is grateful for the life he had. The ghosts offer no inside information on the big questions: Do we come back? Does heaven exist? How does the Almighty decide who lives and dies? Soto writes with a touch as light as Chuy's ghost and with humor, wonderment, and a generosity toward life. (Fiction. 12+)
Publishers Weekly

"Soto pens a sort of Lovely Bones for the young adult set, filled with hope and elegance," said PW. "The author counterbalances difficult ideas with moments of genuine tenderness as well as a provocative lesson about the importance of savoring every moment." Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Soto's twist on the emerging subgenre of narratives in the vein of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones (Little, Brown, 2002) offers a compelling character in the person of 17-year-old Chuy, murdered in the men's room of a dance hall the evening he plans to connect with the girl of his heart's desire. Unfortunately for both Chuy and readers, what happens after death is that the teen's once engaged and engaging spirit seems to dissipate along with his "ghost body." He floats around Fresno, CA, making seemingly random sightings of his murderer, local kids, and-only after a couple of days and at a time when his ghost body is beginning to dissolve limb by limb-other ghosts. He finds a new heartthrob in the form of a teen who has committed suicide and is befriended by the wise ghost of a transient whose life he tried to save. Grieving friends and family unknowingly are visited by Chuy, and he is startled to discover that his mother wants violent revenge for his death. This plethora of plot lines wafts across and past the landscape of a narrative as lacking in developed form as Chuy finds himself becoming. After a strong start, The Afterlife seems to become a series of brief images that drift off as though in a dream. Soto's simple and poetic language, leavened with Mexican Spanish with such care to context that the appended glossary is scarcely needed, is clear, but Chuy's ultimate destiny isn't.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Combing his hair in the dirty bathroom of a club where a dance is being held, 17-year-old Chuy makes the mistake of telling the rodent-faced guy next to him that he likes his shoes. The young man returns the compliment by stabbing Chuy to death. Where any other story would end, Soto's begins. It follows Chuy for several days after his death, as the teenager recounts what he sees and experiences. His parents grieve, and his mother asks a cousin to kill Chuy's assailant; then he goes to his high school's basketball game and sees the effect his death has had on his friends, realizing their sadness will be fleeting. He saves the life of a homeless man, albeit only temporarily, and improbably, he finds his first girlfriend, Crystal, a specter who died from an overdose. Crystal's character is not as well developed as Chuy's, but their relationship is beautifully evoked, with Chuy grasping every thread of love he can as he slowly disappears. Soto has remade Our Town into Fresno, California, and he not only paints the scenery brilliantly but also captures the pain that follows an early death. In many ways, this is as much a story about a hardscrabble place as it is about a boy who is murdered. Both pulse with life and will stay in memory.
Word Count: 35,211
Reading Level: 5.2
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.2 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 71140 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:6.1 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q33866
Lexile: 810L
Guided Reading Level: Z+
Fountas & Pinnell: Z+
WHEN YOU'RE an ordinary-looking guy, even feo, you got to suck it up and do your best. You got to shower, smell clean, and brush your teeth until the gums hurt. You got to dress nice and be Seor GQ. You got to have a little something in your wallet. You got to think, I'll wow the chicas with talk so funny that they'll remember me. This was my lover-boy strategy as I stood in the restroom of Club Estrella combing my hair in the mirror over the sink. I was going to meet Rachel at the dance-Rachel, the girl in the back row in English, the one whose gum-snapping chatter made Mrs. Mitchell's brow furrow. I shook water from my comb and plucked the teeth like a harp. I brought the comb back into my hair again. I had to get it right.It was from happiness, I guess, that I turned to the guy next to me. I said I liked his shoes. They were yellow and really strange to a dude like me who clopped about in imitation Nikes but on that night was wearing a pair of black shoes from Payless. I looked back at the mirror and noticed a telephone number carved with a key in the corner-265-3519. I let my mind play: I could call that number. I could say, "Your number's on the mirror, girlie." I pictured someone like Rachel answering and roaring a frosty, "So!" Then she would be cool, come on strong, and ask, "What's your name, tiger? What's your school? What kind of ride you got?"Ride? I had a bicycle with a bent rim and a skateboard from junior high somewhere in the garage. But a ride? It was Payless shoes made of plastic. Shoes I was going to toss in the closet once the night was over.But the private world inside my head disappeared quickly. The guy next to me, the one with the yellow shoes, worked an arm around my throat, snakelike, and with his free hand plunged a knife into my chest. He stuck me just left of my heart, right where I kept an unopened pack of Juicy Fruit gum-I had intended to sweeten my breath later when I got Rachel alone. I groaned, "No way," and touched that package of gum as I turned and staggered. He lunged and stuck me a second time, just above my belly button-blood the color of pomegranate juice spread across my shirt. I thought, This is not me, and leaned against a sink, grimacing because that one hurt. My legs buckled as I turned and straightened when he stuck me in my lower back. I cried, "How come?" I saw myself in the mirror, my breath on the glass, a vapor that would disappear. I breathed on the surface and saw, in the reflection, the guy stepping away and looking at the ground as if he had dropped a quarter. Then, chin out, he stepped toward me, pulled out the shirttail from the back of my pants, and wiped his blade."What did you say to me, cabrn?" he breathed in my ear. He smelled of a hamburger layered with onions.My answer was on the glass. It was a blot of my breath, a blot of nothing. I couldn't form a word because of how much I hurt.The guy in yellow shoes pushed me away. He put his penknife into his shirt pocket like it

Excerpted from The Afterlife by Gary Soto
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

You'd think a knife in the ribs would be the end of things, but for Chuy, that's when his life at last gets interesting. He finally sees that people love him, faces the consequences of his actions, finds in himself compassion and bravery . . . and even stumbles on what may be true love.A funny, touching, and wholly original story by one of the finest authors writing for young readers today.


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