Ascenders: High School for the Recently Departed
by C.L. Gaber
"It will keep you up all night reading." USA Today bestselling author Tiffany King.
Walker Callaghan doesn't know what happened to her. One minute she was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago...and the next minute, she was in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no rules, and no consequences. Walker Callaghan, 17, is dead. She doesn't go to heaven or hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were the morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.
These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. "There are even cheerleaders in death," Walker observes. It's not a coincidence that the music teacher is a guy named Kurt who "used to have this band." The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie.
Principal King explains the rules -- there are none. Why? You can't die twice.
There is no homework. No tests. No SATS. You're just there to learn because the human brain isn't fully formed until you're 24.
By the way, you can't get hurt physically, so race your Harley off that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do ...because no one knows how long you'll stay in this realm or what's next.
"Losing someone you love would be like dying twice," Walker says.
* * * * * *
Walker Callaghan has just arrived at the Academy after a tragic car accident. “Is this heaven or is this high school?” she asks.
She finds out her new life is a bit of both as she falls in love with tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the only sacred rule of this place. He's looking for a portal to return back to the living realm.
He needs just one hour to retrieve his younger brother who strangely never arrived at The Academy. Bobby is an Earth Bound Spirit, stuck at a plane crash site that took both of their lives as their rich father piloted his private jet nose-first into a cornfield on Christmas Eve.
Walker loves Daniel and risks it all to go with him.
Have they learned enough to outsmart dangerous forces while transporting a young child with them? Can their love survive the fragmented evil parts of themselves that are now hunting them down as they try to find a way back to the middle?
At the Academy, you learn the lessons of an after-lifetime.
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review!
What I say: The concept of the story sold me on reading Ascenders because I found the idea really intriguing. The plot reminded me of a Star-crossed and The Lovely Bones meets Just Like Heaven and Groundhog Day (not in a bad way) YA mashup, but with a big ole mystery/thriller twist.
Walker finds herself studying at the Academy and "living" in the "in between". The place where dead teens go. There is of course action, drama and angst, but I personally enjoyed the setting and the notion of the "in between."
I liked Walker and found her entertaining, if not a little irritating at times. I also loved the idea of the special teachers - Kurt is my fav! I also really liked the Reid's, with Daniel of course bringing on the swoon. I did sometimes get confused about his actual age, at what point do we stop counting? Plus he did sometimes remind me of another YA character called Daniel from a certain well known book.
It's always hard with a new series to introduce a lot of new characters and a new world, but C.L. Gaber does a good job setting up her series in this instalment. I would have liked a little more about certain characters as I did find some of them a little hard to warm to at times. A firm start to the series and be ready for the surprises...
Up to 3.5 Stars in my Sky because I enjoyed the concept!
C.L. GABER is the author of ASCENDERS, the first book in Ascenders SAGA. She is also the co-author of "Jex Malone." A lifelong entertainment journalist, she interviews A list film and TV stars for the New York Times wire and various other publications. C.L. lives in Nevada with her husband Ron, bonus daughter Sabrina and two unruly dogs. You can reach her at CLGaber@yahoo.com