Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen

Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen
Publisher: Neilsen Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world would be a lot better off if all the dead people would stop pretending they weren’t dead.

My name is Zachariah Thornwood, but everyone, even my parents, calls me Zack. A few months ago I was a normal fourteen year old kid obsessed with movies and baseball and girls. Not necessarily in that order. And now?

Now I live life with the knowledge that there are a ton of dead people running around thumbing their noses at the whole idea of the Circle of Life. They could be anyone: the postman, the Mayor, the kid bagging your groceries, or the weather woman on TV. They seem perfectly normal, act perfectly normal, live perfectly normal lives, but are, in fact, perfectly dead…

Not everything in this world is what it immediately appears to be.

Zach was an interesting and memorable main character who genuinely felt like a moody teenage boy. I’m saying that affectionally as I liked him quite a bit even when he was a little grumpy with the adults in his life who dared to ask him questions or wished to know where he was going late at night. These moments are a normal part of growing up for many teens, though, and I’m glad they were included so naturally here. He was a brave kid who enjoyed taking risks. Both of these traits served him well during his adventure.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning and the middle of the storyline. I found myself wishing for more conflict or plot twists during them. As much fun as it was to see Zach try to navigate normal activities like going to school after he learned how many dead people there were out there who were pretending to still be alive, this didn’t quite give me enough substance to work with. I think there was room for more development here, and I would have gone with a higher rating if it had been included.

Mr. Neilsen did a good job with the world building. He explained exactly what he needed to about this world in order for it to make sense for me as a reader, and the framework he set up made me yearn for more. For example, I’d love to know how the dead handle things like doctor’s appointments or going through airport security due to the many physiological differences between them and the living that can quickly become apparent with a body scan, x-ray, blood draw, or any other close attention paid to the topic. As this appears to be the beginning of a new series, I was glad to see how much space he left himself for the future as well. It will be exciting to see where he goes next.

I’d recommend Death is a Many-Splendored Thing to anyone who is in the mood for adventurous young adult fiction.

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