Middle school is a life and death experience for Annabel Craven, a girl able to communicate with the spirit world with her phone. From the author of I TEXT DEAD PEOPLE comes the second novel in the Dead Serious series!
All Annabel Craven wants is to be normal. But that’s hard to do when ghosts keep texting her. And keeping her secret from her nosy new stepsister isn’t going to be easy.
When a ghost girl named Harper begs Anna to help her rejoin the living, Anna warns her that it’s impossible. Once you’re dead, you can’t just start living again . . . or can you?
Includes morbidly-cute black-and-white illustrations!
"Goosebumps lite, featuring mean girls, machinations, and cell phones with unusual apps." --Booklist
About the Author
When Rose was a teenager, she moved to a tiny town where her stepdad was a mortician, her mom was a corpse cosmetician, and their house was on cemetery grounds. She lives in Sacramento, California, with her family and makes sure all her texts are to the living. Visit her at Rose-Cooper.com and follow Rose Cooper on Twitter at @RoseCooper, Facebook at @TheRoseCooper, and on Instagram and Pinterest at @sketchychics.
Read an Excerpt
Annabel Craven stared down at the lifeless body of a girl in her late teens. Her body was still limp and warm, so she hadn’t been dead for long. She lay facedown, her neck bent at an awful angle. Her long red hair was clumped to one side. Anna looked up at the balcony the girl had fallen from. Third story, second window from the left.
She knew this because the dead girl was ranting about it.
Well, in her spirit form.
Anna stayed hidden in the shadows, gritting her teeth. It was just her luck that after all these months without any ghostly contact, she just happened to stumble upon this while walking home.
“So much for my almost normal life,” Anna mumbled. She knew she had to help this girl. Whether she liked it or not, she was someone who helped bridge the gap between the living and the dead.
Timing was everything, so Anna waited in the shadows while watching the dramatics of the dead girl play out in front of her like a horrible high school production that wasn’t worth the five-dollar ticket.
A spirit floated next to the body. “I was just standing on that balcony, for crying out loud!” The dead girl’s spirit threw her arms in the air. “One minute I’m there, and the next, I’m . . . here!” she screeched, staring down at her own body lying inches in front of her.
“Look at me! Who did this? Who would’ve pushed me, Harper Sweety, off that balcony?” the girl wailed. She looked down once more at her body. “Why won’t you get up?” she whispered.
Even as a ghost, Harper had style: Her hair flowed symmetrically, spilling red waves over her slim shoulders. She wore a chic black belted dress, cropped jacket, and open-toed gold high heels, looking as if she’d just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. Her lips glowed with glossy pink lipstick, and a luminous glitter trail ran across her dusky eyelids.
Harper had no idea what was happening to her. But Anna knew she couldn’t just march right up to her and tell her she was dead. No. Harper had to come to terms with this herself. And then Anna could gently guide—or shove—her in the right direction, depending on how stubborn she was. In fact, she’d started referring to herself as a “Guided.”
Going through such a traumatic life-and-death situation could easily cause someone to do silly, if not ridiculous, things.
Anna clamped a hand over her mouth as Harper brushed the pavement with the palms of her hands, sweeping away loose rocks. Then the ghost got down on all fours and lay down on her body.
Harper lay motionless. Her eyes were tightly closed in concentration.
Anna let out a long sigh, her stomach growling. She pulled out her new phone to text her mom.
Sorry, late for dinner. Lost track of time studying. Be home soon.
She hated lying to her mom, but what was she supposed to say? Sorry, Mom, late for dinner, this ghost is having body issues?
Harper’s sobs snapped Anna out of her thoughts. There were no tears. Anna had learned ghosts couldn’t actually cry, although they could go through the motions.
Harper reached into her left coat pocket and plucked out her phone. The rhinestone-encrusted case glimmered in the twilight. She angrily punched the buttons as she cried.
Anna’s own phone vibrated in her hand. She glanced at the screen. One missed call from a blocked number. Anna shuddered. The last time a blocked number had contacted her, it had been from the dead blowing up her phone. And that hadn’t ended well. But that was forever ago. And that was on her old phone. The one she’d buried in the cemetery.
“Okay, let’s do this,” Anna whispered to herself. She had only taken a few steps before Harper gasped.
“I’m alive!” Harper jumped up and down excitedly as her vacant body started twitching. Anna hated this part. Well, she hated many parts, but this was in the top three. She had to gently break the painfully bad news to Harper that she was not waking up. She was dead. And the twitching was rigor mortis setting in. As Anna skulked over, her sneaker hit a rock and sent it bouncing across the pavement, causing Harper to spin around.
Her hazel eyes were lit with hope as they connected with Anna’s dim brown ones. Harper raked her hands down her dress, smoothing out the wrinkles.
“Did you see? Did you?” Harper pointed at her body, speaking excitedly.
Anna definitely wasn’t expecting that reaction. She was expecting something more along the lines of “Who are you?” or “What happened?”
“Well, did you?” Harper asked, looking at her im-patiently.
Anna had to choose her words carefully now. She had to let Harper down gently. Nothing was worse than traumatizing a ghost right after death. It would be near impossible to help her cross over if that happened.
“You’re dead,” Anna blurted out before she could stop herself. “For good. As in not coming back, can’t reanimate yourself, you’re a goner.” She said it without expression, in a monotone. It was important not to get emotionally involved in these highly sensitive situations. Anna had learned that the hard way too, not so long ago, when she’d had to deal with her first ghost ever. Lucy had been a ghost in denial (and in love), and only cold hard facts—and a glass coffee table—could help her see the truth.
Anna hoped this worked for all ghosts.
Harper stared wide-eyed at her, speechless. It was a good look for her, Anna thought. But like all good things, it came to an end.
“Oh God. Please do not tell me you’re my guardian angel.” Harper placed her right hand on her hip, looking Anna up and down. “You have horrible fashion sense.”
Anna sighed. This girl was worse than a drama queen. Much, much worse.
She was a dead diva. And she smelled like wet socks.
Anna had no choice but to deal with her.
Harper let out an exasperated breath, blowing a tendril of hair off her forehead. “Some guardian angel you are! Aren’t you supposed to actually save me or something? What were you thinking? Well, apparently you weren’t, because I ended up like this.”
“Calm down. I’m not an angel,” Anna said.
“You can say that again.” Harper sat down on her body. “Standing is tiring. Especially in these shoes. And I will not get dirt or blood on my dress.”
“Clothes should be the least of your worries.” Anna couldn’t keep the sarcasm from her voice. “And by the way, you’re not standing. You’re hovering.”
“So what am I now exactly—a spirit?”
Before Anna could answer, Harper patted her dead head. “It was a good body. But if I had known I would only live to be sixteen, I would’ve eaten more cream puffs. Well, at least I’ll look fabulous in my funeral clothes. I hope they fix my neck so my head will be facing the right way.” Harper widened her eyes as a sudden thought occurred to her. “My funeral! There is so much planning to do. I have to make sure the right flowers are ordered—lilacs, of course.” She tapped her finger on her lips, thinking. “Or maybe white roses. I’ve always loved white roses. And the guest list. This will take forever. . . .”
“You’re not exactly planning a party here, so I’m pretty sure you don’t need to stress about the details,” Anna said. She forced a smile. “How are you feeling?”
“What are you, my therapist?”
“Do you feel detached or connected to your body? Do you feel weighed down? It makes a difference.”
“Seriously? I don’t know. I feel weightless, I guess. Like I’m not really here.” Harper shrugged. “Whatever. Really, though, I’m just bored out of my mind.”
Dead and bored? That was a definite letdown. And apparently all it took was the thought of a party—even if it was a funeral—for Harper to accept the truth.
A streetlamp flickered nearby. It was just after nightfall now, and from the shadows, a homeless man stumbled up to the lamppost and picked up a can, crushing it in his hands before stuffing it in his already overfilled trash bag. The wheels of his cart squeaked as he continued down the road. He never noticed Harper’s body.
“Are you kidding me?” Harper shrieked. “He finds a can. Not my body, but a freakin’ can!”
Harper was still seething when suddenly a woman’s scream echoed down the street. Several dogs began barking in the distance. Anna ran back into the shadows, hiding behind a large oak. There was no way she wanted to be implicated in a death. That went way beyond the call of duty.
Harper suddenly stood as the woman ran up to the body and clapped her hand to her mouth. She inched closer to inspect the body.
The woman glanced around, then whipped out a compact from her worn and tattered purse, holding the mirror under Harper’s nose. She gasped when the surface didn’t fog.
Then the woman stole her shoes.
Harper opened and closed her mouth several times, like a gasping fish out of water, not able to quite work out what had just happened. “You hag!” she screamed after her. Harper stared in shock before finally sighing and sitting back down on top of her lifeless, and now shoeless, body and petting her former head.
Anna’s phone vibrated, reminding her of the missed call. And a voice mail. Her eyes widened as she listened to a familiar voice on the message ranting about a pair of Jimmy Choos.
Lucy. The ghost who wouldn’t leave her alone.
“No,” Anna whispered. “Not again.”
When Harper had opened her eyes, she had blinked frantically until blurry images of her surroundings gradually came into focus. Why was she lying on the floor? No, wait . . . the ground. The dirty, outside ground. She quickly stood up. Electric jolts of panic ran through her.
A body lay on the ground.
Harper gasped, scrambling backward. Then she took a step closer, her skin cold with terror. It was a girl wearing a little black dress. Her face, white as a sheet, had a pinched look. But even in death, she looked fabulous.
Harper recognized that girl.
It was her.
A scream tore from her throat. “That can’t be me. It can’t be!” Harper looked down at her hands. They were shaking. Her skin was a mind-blowing shade of white that looked as if she hadn’t been near a tanning bed in at least a month.
Harper took another shaky step, her legs giving out. As soon as her knees hit the ground, she realized she didn’t feel it. In fact, she couldn’t feel anything at all. She was completely numb.
“No!” she had shrieked, raking her nails down her arm, leaving wide tracks of red. Still no feeling.
“No, no, no!” She rubbed her arms, trying to erase the marks. But the traces had already vanished.
And now here she was.
Anna had given Harper only two options:
1. Follow Anna back to Maddsen Manor—Anna’s house had a name—and let Anna “help” her. Which probably meant listen to her lectures until Harper went screaming over to the other side just to get away from her.
2. Not follow Anna back to her house and deal with everything on her own.
The thought of following Anna was about as appealing as getting poison oak and chicken pox at the same time. But really, what else could she do? If she didn’t stay with Anna tonight she’d have to hang out here all by herself, with the dark woods looming close by.
A cold shock ran through Harper as she was seized again with the terrible realization: She was dead. What does someone do after they die? Where do they go? Would she wander around aimlessly forever, in a state of limbo? And was this tiny town of Winchester Village considered limbo?
Out of habit, Harper inhaled a deep breath and slowly let it out.
Her eyes slid along the tree line. Anna had moved away from her and was busy texting. She wasn’t paying attention to Harper.
And that’s when Harper noticed the other girl.
A girl. Standing several feet away. Wearing mismatched clothes and probably close to Harper’s age.
The girl raised a hand at Harper before flipping her hair over one shoulder.
She can see me? Harper thought, surprised.
As the girl moved closer, Harper noticed her shoes were fabulous. And her skin was eerily translucent. Harper could see the trees right through her back. A strange incandescent light radiated from her, illuminating her from the inside like a jack-o’-lantern.
“Who are you?” Harper’s voice shook.
The girl looked Harper up and down. “I’ve been waiting for you. Dying to meet you, actually.”
The girl glanced at the body lying on the ground.
“Waiting?” Harper’s eyes widened. “Oh my God . . . you’re the one who killed me!”
The girl rolled her eyes. “Please. I have no reason to kill. Unless, of course, you go after my boyfriend. But let’s not go there.”
“So who are you, then? Are you like Anna? Or are—”
“Shhh! Not so loud!” The girl looked over at Anna, who was frowning at her phone and tapping at the screen. “The last thing we need is Anna to hear us and come running back. I’m Lucy Edwards, and I’m nothing like Anna.”
“But you know her?”
“Of course. She tried to steal my boyfriend while trying to get me to cross over to the other side.”
“Cross over? You mean you’re . . . a spirit?”
Lucy folded her arms across her chest, looking irritated. “Um, think about it. Are normal people able to float? Can you see through people if they aren’t spirits? It’s common sense, really.”
Harper looked down to see Lucy hovering only an inch or so above the ground. “You call that floating? I can jump higher than that in my heels.” Harper quickly shut her mouth as she saw anger flash over Lucy’s face.
“So, um . . . you didn’t cross over, though?”
“Let’s just say it’s complicated.”
“Well, I don’t want to cross over.” Harper’s eyes widened. “Are those the clothes you died in?”
Lucy laughed. “Seriously?”
“Well . . . yeah. I mean, you were either in a horrible accident with a washing machine, or death is cruel in the afterlife. In which case, I’m really not doing that crossing-over thing.”
Lucy smiled. “I was hoping you’d say that. Being dead isn’t as great as you’d think, am I right?”
Harper was silent for a moment. Nothing about being dead sounded great.
“So what if you didn’t have to stay dead?” Lucy asked slyly.
Harper peeked sideways at Lucy. “As in . . . I could be alive again?”