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There is a life after death, but only for the terminally cool. . . .
Jo-Jo Dyas doesn't believe he has any reason to live, but then he finds the surprisingly lively dead girl in the culvert and she convinces him otherwise. She and her punk band, the Fiendish Lot, come from the Afterlife, a strange, colorless place where souls sometimes pause on the journey between this world and the next. When Jo-Jo follows her there, he gets a chance to make right all the things that have ...
There is a life after death, but only for the terminally cool. . . .
Jo-Jo Dyas doesn't believe he has any reason to live, but then he finds the surprisingly lively dead girl in the culvert and she convinces him otherwise. She and her punk band, the Fiendish Lot, come from the Afterlife, a strange, colorless place where souls sometimes pause on the journey between this world and the next. When Jo-Jo follows her there, he gets a chance to make right all the things that have gone wrong in his life . . . but only if he can figure out how before he fades away into nothing. Maybe the answer lies in Jo-Jo's late-breaking realization: Being alive is kind of cool.
Rude, raw, and blisteringly funny, Andrew Auseon's new novel is like one of those insanely catchy songs that you can't forget and won't want to. So pay attention: The afterlife you save may be your own.
Gr 9 Up
Distraught over his girlfriend's murder, Jo-Jo, 17, takes a gun to a secluded Baltimore ravine to kill himself. He discovers a naked dead girl who disturbingly wakes up, introduces herself as Max, and hauls Jo-Jo along to meet her dead friends, members of the Fiendish Lot, the most popular punk band in the Afterlife returning to Earth to test out their new material. Jo-Jo accidentally shoots himself and dies, waking up in the Afterlife where he reunites with the band and accompanies them on tour. In this gloomy place of second chances, the dead can search for their true purpose. Realizing that he squandered his life, Jo-Jo focuses on finding Violet, but his devotion is clouded by his feelings for sarcastic Max. Auseon's darkly humorous novel is outrageously inventive, chaotically plotted, overly long, and ultimately unsatisfying. Details of the Afterlife are intriguing, like the deads' bright interior "sols" that provide the only color in an otherwise monochromatic world. Despite a clever premise, too many random plot jumps derail the story, like Jo-Jo's stint in the Afterlife jail, and are dropped with little development. Vivid characters like Max's grandfather (whose sol literally burns out) are introduced and then abandoned, and attention given to the Fiendish Lot's sol-reviving performances is far too meager. Wildly imaginative and entertaining ideas and images here, sadly in need of focus.-Joyce Adams Burner, National Archives at Kansas City, MO
Jo-Jo and the Fiendish Lot MSR
That day down by the stream, I wanted to kill myself. Dead. Gone. Finished. And I would have done it, too, but the girl in the water stopped me.
With me I had the old .45 and a joint...everything I really needed, except a reason to go on living. My pop made a joke once, telling me never to take the old .45 out of his underwear drawer unless it was for a good reason. I had me a damn good one.
When you get the idea of killing yourself into your head, you can't think of a better reason to do anything else. The crazy idea sits there in the middle of your mind, like a big truck parked on some train tracks, and after a while the idea begins to seem less crazy and eventually even makes a bit of sense. Making yourself dead is a good reason to get up in the morning, if only so you don't ever have to get up again. Me, I did not want to get up one more morning without Violet.
The morning I got up to die was the prettiest day we'd had in months. I pulled on some sweats and this ratty Nirvana T-shirt I wore the night before and walked to Pop's old room to get the .45, which was heavier than I remembered. On the way, I checked on my nephew...my slut sister's baby...and made sure he was sleeping peaceful. Leaving the house, I took the change off the kitchen table like I was just running an errand down to the deli...maybe for bread or a slushie...like I'd be back.
I sat on the stoop for a few minutes, like everybody in Woodberry does, all of us nobodies sitting around on their flat concrete porches not doing anything. Our line of row houses goes all the way to the end of the block, andthere ain't one of them looks livable...but then you turn around and see you've been living in one.
After a few minutes, Billie from next door walked out onto her stoop, cigarette dangling from one lip, her momma's baby drooped over one skinny arm. Billie was twelve years old but well on her way to being like my sister, who had a baby of her very own to dangle.
"Hey, Jo-Jo," Billie said between puffs. "What's up?"
"I'm gonna go blow my brains out," I said.
"Good luck with that," Billie said.
"Later, then," I said, and got up. I walked down Morton Avenue. I had spent seventeen years walking up and down that hill, and would probably have spent the next seventeen doing the same. That morning it took me only thirty seconds to reach the corner one last time. A whole life hiked in thirty seconds. If that's not a good enough reason to do yourself in, nothing is.
At the end of the block ran Druid Park Drive, a busier street, and I stood and waited as early traffic buzzed by before hustling across the road into the gravel parking lot of the old mattress warehouse across the street. I took one last look behind me at my neighborhood. A few houses up, Fat Emily stood in droopy stockings, unrolling a bleached old American flag above her front railing. In the street, Ray Hodges worked on his car, which bled a trickle of oil. Every time he gunned the engine, I smelled the gas in the air, the heat. Oil flowed all the way down the hill, pooling at my feet around a stuffed rabbit that had been ground into the roadside gutter. I'd had enough of all this, forever.
I slipped into the thick brush by the side of the parking lot and stumbled down a ravine to a stream where water bubbled over jagged rocks and broken liquor bottles. That was all it took, a few steps down into stubborn tangles of weeds and thick bushes, and everything changed. Deep forest green replaced concrete gray and asphalt black. Around me, trees seemed to tremble with bug noise. The hot asphalt stink was gone, leaving a heavy green nature smell, which was the only way I could describe it since I didn't know one jagged, curvy, three-leafed, spotted whatever from another. All I knew was that I liked it down there, and I think it was because the place felt alive.
I sat down by the edge of the water, not much caring about getting mud on my sweats or the way my high-tops just sort of sank into the cold water and soaked it up. The stream bubbled along its muddy bank and through an arched concrete tunnel under the roadway into darkness. Trees overhead formed a roof of branches and sunlight; the cars roaring past above sounded like one big breath of wind when I closed my eyes. This was where people would find me, if anyone even bothered to look.
I tried to think about things I would miss. There were a few: like the day soon when Pop got out of the hospital and would or would not be normal again, and maybe we'd go see an Orioles game like he'd been telling me we'd do for years, or that day in the future when the baby got old enough to say my name without any coaxing or my stupid sister, Carrie, butting in to say it for him. Or even just the everyday shits-and-giggles with my friends at school, even though most of the kids at school hated my ass and wanted to bash my jaw against a gutter. One of them had actually told me that, the same kid who always called me Snowflake.
A guy shouldn't have to work so hard to miss things.Jo-Jo and the Fiendish Lot MSR. Copyright © by Andrew Auseon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.