- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Paperback: 168 pages
- Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0152052208
- ISBN-13: 978-0152052201
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Afterlife Paperback – April 1, 2005
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Not many authors kill their main character on page two, but when Gary Soto does in The Afterlife the tactic results in a richly textured coming of age story. Chuy is a normal teenage guy, making his way in the barrios of Fresno, California, and hoping to impress a pretty girl. Carefully combing his hair in the restroom at Club Estrella, he only has a few moments to consider his "loverboy" strategy before his young life is (literally) cut short by a knife-wielding stranger who misinterprets a compliment.
Soon Chuy is floating above his bleeding body, embarking on a journey of personal exploration. As he drifts though his hometown (tightening his stomach muscles so as not to get blown off course) he manages to achieve many of the things he didnt when he was alive--recognizing how much he is loved by family and friends, saving a life, punishing a thug, and even falling in love (with a ghost-girl who has committed suicide).
Soto has a knack for particularly apt comparisons ("the sun rose pink as a scar," "laundry hung like the faded flags of defeated nations,"), which brings beauty and clarity to this dangerous world of cholos and cabrones (and if you dont know what those are, theres a glossary in the back). Aside from a couple plot points left dangling, The Afterlife offers a tangibly detailed portrait of a young life worth living. (Ages 13 and older)--Brangien Davis --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From School Library Journal
Grade 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, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top customer reviews
As a teacher of often reluctant readers, I am always keeping my eyes open for interesting new books, not just from lists of recommended reading, but by seeking input from my students as well. This is how I was first introduced to _The Afterlife_ by Gary Soto. One of my students read the book and began to recommend it to others. After reading _The Afterlife_, many students have responded that it is one of the best, if not the best book they have ever read.
Several students read the book, then I decided it was time to read it for myself. I was disappointed. However, after reflecting, I could see the appeal for my students. In order to attempt to define the appeal, I need to explain the basic plot.
The main character, Chuy, a young Latino, is stabbed and killed after complimenting another teenager's yellow shoes. His spirit leaves his body, and his spirit slowly begins to pass into the next world. However, he is still able to move around and observe his world without being seen. Along the way, he meets a young lady who has also left her body and become a spirit.
If all of this sounds fantastic, it is, but although it can be unusual, Soto never lets his book become sensational.
I believe the reason this novel holds the interest of my students is that it focuses on one of the deepest desires of teenagers: the desire to stand back and analyze their world without the world looking back at them, the desire to do good things without considering "image" or the disapproval of their peers, the desire to establish a relationship with a member of the opposite sex without the discomfort of their own body always getting in the way. In fact, although Chuy seems like a good guy before his death, he is better able to define his world, does some of his kindest acts, and forms more meaningful relationships after.
By the time we are adults, most of us have established a certain balance in our lives. It only stands to reason that a book like _The Afterlife_ appeals less to adults than those who are in the midst of a time in their lives that can seem very unbalanced at times. I give this book four stars based on the average between the three it would receive from me and the five it would receive from my students if they were writing this review.