Madison Avery doesn't believe in fate—until a combination of fate and free will brings her to live with her dad (which her mom thinks is a good thing for her since she can't stay out of trouble at home), gets her a pity-date ("you got your boss to get his son to ask me out? what?"), and kills her (at her junior prom. On her seventeenth birthday. of all the luck.). Now, after having claimed the amulet of the timekeeper who killed her (which is the only thing that keeps her looking like she's alive), she has to learn how to live with death. If that's even possible.
But the dark timekeeper who killed her isn't happy, because she's got his amulet, and she's not all the way dead (just sort of dead). Teaming up with Barnabas—who may or may not be a fallen angel—and the light time keeper, Chronos (or Ron for short), a guardian angel (who she forces to guard someone else) and enlisting the human help of her ex-prom date Josh (who she didn't realize she had a crush on), she has to attempt to save her soul.
All in a day's work for a dead high-schooler… right?
This was the second time I've read Once Dead, Twice Shy. I still can't figure out what the title means. Whatever it means, it was a pretty exciting book. There wasn't a second of "down-time". Madison was always up to something, learning something, running to—or from—something, or saving someone. Every chapter had little pieces of the puzzle, and the way it all fit together at the end, was priceless, hilarious, and promising.
I will say that I don't like where the story picks up. I think Harrison should have actually included the beginning of the story, where she gets killed. I read it before I read this book, and I would have been rather lost without it. It was a short story included in Prom Nights from Hell. I don't care if this is technically a "book 1" in the series. It should have been book 2, or at least had the beginning of the story included in it.
I really liked Madison. I liked her character (though not some of her choices—but hey, if I was a dead seventeen year old trying to keep her dad from knowing that she could bend time, I probably would have made those same choices) and I liked her interior monologue. She was serious enough to be nerve-wracking and exciting, but sarcastic enough to give everything a touch of comic relief. I really didn't like Josh in the short prequel to this book, but as his character began to be more clear, I really started to like him. I hope things turn out well between him and Madison. I would have liked a little more romantic tension between them, but what was there was clean and innocent—a little too innocent for Madison Avery.
I don't particularly like Kim Harrison's writing style. It's very casual, it has those dreaded fragments, and it's nothing out of the ordinary. However, her way of describing both physical images and emotional feelings was very good, and I could see everything, hear everything, and feel everything her characters were experiencing. As I mentioned above, I liked the comic relief. I also liked her lack of language through the story. Madison had her own set of "words" and phrases that she used that weren't offensive in any way, and it made the story much more enjoyable. However, the only word I can think of to describe her writing is mediocre, and that and the lack of tension between Madison and Josh are the only reasons I don't give this book five stars.
Content: clean of language, violence, and sexuality of any kind. Thank you Harrison, for writing clean YA fiction!
Recommendation: Ages 12+ to lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, and general YA fiction.