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.
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 didn’t 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 don’t know what those are, there’s 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