Review – How to Experience Death for Beginners by Jessica Branton

So many updates in the Pluckyverse, I don’t even know where to begin. The semester started off crazy with me taking on way more responsibilities than I could manage and somehow getting them done. What that meant, though, was my reading life suffered and my blogging life became nearly nonexistent.

But I am back and ready and rearing to reclaim my time. I’ve got so many amazing ARCs I’m working through, and at some point, I’ll even update you on my 2018 reading challenge. Did I meet my goals? Did I keep up with my Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge? Did I change the world on page at a time?

You’ll have to wait to find out. Until then, please enjoy this review of How to Experience Death for Beginners by Jessica Branton.

So, if you know anything about me, you know that I love crime shows, movies, books, podcasts, etc… I love crime so much, in fact, that I started a podcast, Lifetime Sentence, with my friend Erin. When I say crime, it’s not like I want there to be people running around with guns or knives or whatever committing heinous monstrosities around the world. What I mean is I find the psychology of crime fascinating. I like to study it in a purely scientific kind of way. And before I make myself sound any more like a madman that I already have, I will tell you why this is an important thing to mention.

A clairvoyant introvert can enter the minds of people at their moment of death. When a serial killer emerges in her small town, she receives audacious advances from an enigmatic newcomer. While dodging detectives and falling in love, she joins forces with the FBI to take down the killer.

Also, if you know me, you know that one of my top three favorite TV shows of all time is Medium with Patricia Arquette. A psychic medium working with the local DA’s office to catch criminals. Do you see now why this book would appeal to me? Whenever I got an email asking me to consider it for review, my little heart leapt with joy.

It was also a nice break from all of the memoirs I’ve been reading lately. Not that there’s anything wrong with memoirs, I really love them–which I guess is good since the unit I’m teaching in school right now is all about memoirs–but I am an escapist reader and it’s really hard to escape into someone else’s real life. I want to escape to a fictional world where I can read about awful things that happen to people and rest assured that they’re works of fiction.

And boy, did How to Experience Death for Beginners deliver exactly that. Awful things happening to fictional people. From the prologue, I was hooked on the premise. A clairvoyant who experiences death with the person? That alone was unique enough to grasp me. Then add in the element with the FBI? I was sold.

What I wasn’t prepared for, I don’t think, is the other baggage that came along with this book. Casey, the main character, starts this book with one of the worst visions I can imagine having. What she sees scares her and her sister for years afterward, and brings with it a lot of emotional baggage that I wasn’t read to digest, myself. Along with that, Casey collects baggage as she goes. From experiencing the brutal murders of innocent victims (luckily the reader is spared most of the gruesome details) to dealing with mental health issues and cutting, Branton does not she away from heavier topics.

Though her execution lacks a certain finesse in dealing with some of the mental health/cutting issues, I try to remember the intended audience of this book. This book was not necessarily written with the discerning eye of a 30-year-old school teacher, but with high school students in mind. And through the eyes of a high school student, this is an excellent book. It’s unpredictable and unique. It was heavy and fast-paced.

It is worth mentioning that Branton was 14 when she originally drafted this story, and it is apparent in the execution. There’s a certain amount of convolution that happens when a 14-year-old writes a story. I can remember being a young writer of my own and writing books so convoluted that even I couldn’t figure out what was going on anymore. How to Experience Death for Beginners is not nearly that confusing or overdone. But there’s enough to keep this from being a five-star read.

I loved the time I spent with Casey and am very impressed by this debut author. I can’t wait to see where her craft will lead her in a few more books.

How to Experience Death for Beginners is the perfect book for fans of Medium and My Favorite Murder. It is on sale today wherever books are sold.

Plucky’s rating? 3.5/5 stars

The Plucky Reader

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