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It's a Wonderful Death

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Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2015

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About the author

Sarah J. Schmitt

2 books166 followers
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.

Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, IT'S A WONDERFUL DEATH, comes out Fall, 2014 from Strange Chemistry.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 277 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,728 reviews1,279 followers
October 6, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Perseus/PGW/Legato and Edelweiss.)

“Stop it! This isn’t fair, and you know it. You can’t erase my future because you don’t think my past was good enough.”

This was a YA story about a girl who died too early.

RJ really knew how to complain, I wasn’t surprised that someone called her a spoiled princess because that was exactly how she came across! She did improve a bit as the book went on, but she still whined and moaned a lot.

The storyline in this was about RJ trying to get sent back to her life after being taken by a reaper too early. This was entertaining to a point, but the pace was just way too slow for me, and I found myself losing interest as the book went on.

The ending to this was okay, but it definitely left space for a sequel.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Paula M.
547 reviews641 followers
October 6, 2015

"Don‘t discount your importance to the world. Each moment of your life has a purpose, even the ones you think don't matter. And don't forget to make the unexpected choice. You never know how that one moment can transform your life"



Wow! Reading It's a Wonderful Death is such an adventure! And adventure that I know I'll remember forever. There's a lot in this book that I didn't expect but that turned out to be such a good thing. This better have a sequel because I'm so not ready to let go yet.

I'm not even gonna bother doing a recap because I admit, I cant. The blurb pretty much tell you about the gist anyway. What it didn't tell you though is that this novel is crazy. Crazy good! Crazy brilliant! Crazy memorable. RJ is such a riot. I'm no mean girl but for some reason, I see myself in her. Maybe because I also don't know when to shut up and I like asking ALLLL of the questions. You know what's the best about RJ? She was not made to be LIKED (HELLO, MEAN GIRL, REMEMBER?) And yet, you can't help but admire her. She's funny, a little annoying and a lot real. This girl has made a gazillion mistakes but her self growth is just enormous. RJ is pretty much 50% of the teenagers nowadays. She's the kind of character you'll hate to love.

The plot of IAWD reminded me so much of The Catastrophic History of You and Me but with less romance. I don't think it has any at all. At least, not the romantic kind. ANYWAY, Sarah J. Schmitt is just.... asdfghjkl, I just really want to visit her mind. I don't even know how she came up with such wonderful and vibrant characters but they're all winners! Everyone is fleshed out even though they only appeared for like, two pages! If there's one thing I wish (okay there's two) its these: a sequel and more romance. I already picked a guy for RJ. Please author, make it happen?

This novel is so meaningful. It will surprise you and make you think. Sarah Schmitt just wrote a beautiful novel that will make you laugh and will bring you to tears as well. Full of colorful and memorable characters and written in a brilliant and humorous way, I can absolutely say that... Its a wonderful book! (see what I did there?)

Profile Image for Kels.
315 reviews165 followers
January 15, 2016
I really enjoyed reading It's a Wonderful Death; however, it did take me a little while to get fully into it. Some parts of the book just felt like it was moving slow, and others just didn't hold much weight for me. But to that, I would say that overall this was a fun, entertaining, and pretty light read, that had some heart-touching moments--I may have gotten a little choked up at some parts--and also some laugh out loud scenes as well. What truly makes this book is the protagonist, RJ, and her fiery charm paired with her sarcastic humor. For a mean girl, she was hard not to warm up to.

This book wasn't at all what I expected, but you know what, that's not such a bad thing. I do think there were some hiccups in the books that could have used some more editing, but honestly I'm not too bothered by them, and this book was still pretty good in spite of the few problems I encountered with it.
Profile Image for Glory.
350 reviews49 followers
October 17, 2015
3.5 звезды
Несерьезная книга о серьезных вещах, или Весело о смерти.

Итак, можно ли умереть случайно? Не в смысле, по человеческим меркам ("Ой, несчастный случай"), а вообще? Неожиданно даже для твоих ангелов хранителей и самой Смерти?
Оказывается, можно.

Эр Джей подставили. Цыганка-гадалка на ярмарке почуяла приближение жнеца и прикрылась ничего не подозревающей клиенткой. И вот Эр Джей мертва.
Жнецу все равно - ему надо доставить душу, и он доставит. Другим мертвым в поезде тоже все равно. Как, впрочем, и ангелам. Ну да, девочка не должна была умирать в ближайшие семьдесят лет, так что ж теперь поворачивать время вспять ради одной единственной души, причем не самой чистой?
Но Эр Джей не из тех, кто сдается. Она решила вернуться к жизни, и она вернется.

Эдакий гибрид "Мертвых, как я" и множества фильмов о перерождении и втором шансе. О том, стоит ли напрягаться ради весьма эгоистичной и не самой доброй чирлидерши, и сможет ли она переоценить свою жизнь. О том, как легко потерять себя в погоне за навязанными "ценностями". О Святом Петре, похожем на Райана Рейнольдса, и ехидной Смерти в гавайской рубашке. О жнецах, ангелах и даже о Будде.
Ну и о бытие нашем со всеми его нелепостями.

Героиня при всей своей неидеальности мне понравилась. Да, засранка та еще, но не злыдня. Просто в какой-то момент сбилась с пути, потерялась, а времени найтись ей не дали. Она саркастичная, жизнелюбивая и пробивная.
Остальные персонажи... Скажем так, забавны))
Сразу предупреждаю, загробный мир тут весьма прозаичен и условен)) Поезд, большой вестибюль, жизни, записанные на DVD. Собственно, религия тоже условна, как и имена ангелов, апостолов, жнецов... Просто нам так привычнее, и чего автору напрягаться, история ведь не о том.
Так что если серьезно относитесь к религии, Библии и т.д. и т.п., то лучше, наверное, не читать.

И да, книжка очень подростковая.
Profile Image for Arch Bala.
Author 4 books40 followers
December 22, 2015
Do you believe in the afterlife? Do you believe in Heaven? In Hell? What about Angels? Well, this book surely has it all when it comes to these things. I’m not really good when it comes to discussing such stuff seriously but these are the things I’ve grown up with hearing from my friends, family and just about everywhere. I thought the blurb was interesting and it sounds real fun.

When seventeen-year-old mean girl RJ found herself in the afterlife by being accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, all “hell and heaven” breaks loose. She found herself being tried on whether she deserves a second chance to live or not. But she’s got to pass different tests in order to do so.

I honestly can’t find it in myself all throughout the book to like RJ as a character. She’s mean, selfish and just care about being popular. Very typical high school mean girl. Of course, she gets to redeem herself at the end but I’m still not a fan even after that. I think what made me keep reading this are the secondary characters. As for RJ and her fate – Uhm, no. I feel like I just didn’t care at the end.

On a more positive note, I thought the story’s very fast paced and most of the characters are pretty vibrant. I initially thought that there will be a bigger plot point in the story involving the ring but the story got pretty much about on how RJ could go back on earth. I was rather disappointed that the story didn’t go much deeper.

There was nothing extremely unique about the story. It’s funny and fun enough but it lacks charm that I thought should be coming from the main character. Perhaps, I’m too old and grouchy for the book so this may be enjoyed by others more. Overall, the writing and the story was decent. I’d still recommend it if you’re up for a quick read.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Sibel Gandy.
951 reviews55 followers
October 15, 2020
Sonu şaşırttı beni baya. Öyle bir şeyin olabileceğini hiç aklımdan geçirmemiştim 🤔
Profile Image for Jessica (Goldenfurpro).
884 reviews252 followers
May 12, 2016
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd

I received an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

RJ has just been told that she's to have a long life when she dies. It's a complete accident. The Grim Reaper wasn't even supposed to collect her, but now she's on her way to the afterlife. She tells everyone there how she's supposed to be alive, but everyone says it's just not worth it to send her back. It's eventually decided that she can go back if she goes through three trials. She will be taken back to three defining moments of her life and if she makes the 'right' decision this time, she will get her life back.

I love books dealing with any aspect of the afterlife. The afterlife is something that none of us can possibly know what it's like, so I find it very interesting seeing different author's takes on it. I really liked seeing this afterlife. While some of the subject and plot are serious, the afterlife is portrayed in such a oddly humorous manner that I can't help but enjoy!

The afterlife takes up the gist of this book, but this book is about RJ. RJ is the kind of character that you just don't particularly like, at least in the beginning. RJ is a mean girl and she has that personality. I sympathized with her because she was taken early and mistakenly, but she did annoy me. She did bad things in her life and made bad choices, yet she didn't seem to realize. That is what this book was about, because it was known that RJ could've had a different life. The reason why she was that way was because of her choices and mainly how she didn't stand up to her so-called friends. Throughout this book, she went through an incredible amount of change. I loved seeing how she changed in this book. I thought it was beautiful.

As for romance, there is none! This surprised me because I always expect that in YA, but I think it made the book so much better! Otherwise, we would have been distracted from the plot.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It was oddly fun at times, but with the serious-ness of a coming-of-age tale in death. This was a great read and it's yet another afterlife book that I can recommend to people!
Profile Image for K..
3,689 reviews1,007 followers
August 7, 2016
This book is like the awkward love child of A Christmas Carol and Before I Fall. It features a queen bee teenage girl dying before her time, and having to relive three moments of her life and change the outcomes of those moments to prove that she's a person worth sending back to Earth to live out the rest of her life. So the concept was a pretty good one.

The execution, however? Not so much. RJ was a pretty awful character. The set up took way too long. The whole thing was RIDICULOUSLY Christian-centric. Like, all other religions just end up in Christian Heaven because "God doesn't care what you believe". And sure, Buddha's there waiting for you at the Pearly Gates, but the whole place is occupied by angels and run by St. Peter and the most non-Christian element of it was the Cerberus still guards the gates of Hell, and basically? It made me really uncomfortable.

RJ went from evil queen bee to kind and caring member of the community in about two seconds flat, which was completely implausible, and the ending infuriated me to no end.

So yeah. This was...not good. At least it only took me a couple of hours to read it.
Profile Image for Sarah (thegirltheycalljones).
418 reviews284 followers
March 13, 2017
In the words of the MC herself : "Wow".
DNFed around 70%, after skimming a lot.

This is completely insufferable. Despite the interesting and important topics this book approaches like bullying, learning to be honest with yourself and be able to face the truth, learning that growing some balls to do the right thing is necessary, that acts have consequences, redemption and well...death, I was completely unable to take it seriously.
The writing is very fanction-like and tries so hard to be fun and witty and snarky but is not, and the MC is one of the worst I've read about lately.
Let's get back to a quick summary : RJ's soul is collected by accident by a grim reaper and she will spend an awfully long time trying to convince a bunch of angels to send her back.
First, it makes no sense : why would they not send her back and erase her memory if it was an accident - and it was - and she was not supposed to die at this moment?
Sure, there would be no book, but it would have been better to give us a good reason, or at least better reasons than the obscure and feeble ones we're given - that I don't even remember now because I was torn between bored and irritated and didn't wrote them down.
Of course RJ is right to be pissed : she's now dead and wasn't meant to be! It shouldn't be an issue to send her back. But well, it is because "reasons" so we have to follow her everywhere while she tries to earn her life back. This is very long and messy.
Also, RJ is one of the rudest, most inappropriately confident little brat you can meet in YA. She thinks the world owes her everything, doesn't respect anybody and make constant demands like a spoiled princess.
Well, RJ...maybe you should...Shut. The fuck. Up? You definitely should be a bit more concerned about being dead and less about so-called snarky comebacks. Because that's always so sad in any kind of book : mixing "snark" and "big mouthed" with "rude" and "stupid". Here, you just want to scream at every pages: "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!" or "THAT IS SO NOT FUNNY, STOP THINKING YOU'RE A SMART ASS!"
(Side note : she reaches Godwin's law way too quickly for my liking, it was the cherry on top)
That girl is not impressed by anything. I mean, she's in the Afterlife, you would expect more shock/trauma/respect/whatever... She talks to angels like they're her old-time buddies and still reacts like she's in high-school. Yes, all of this probably in the sake of character development because she will become a good person (woo, wild guess as I haven't finished! *eyeroll and sigh*), but not very logical and highly annoying.
The angels themselves are quite pathetic : it's a bunch of new adults, mostly hot and behaving like kids. They kinda deserve to be treated with no respect but RJ is such an asshole that I still prefer the dumb angels.
So angels tries to make a list of pros and cons about sending her back or not and I stopped reading when we learn that (really, if you don't plan to read this book, read the spoiler tag, it's unbelievable)

This was really bad. I might skim again just to find out how it ends because I'm kinda curious to se if it can get worse but probably won't because well, I've got a life. No pun intended.

Sorry if it sounds rude or aggressive, respect to people who enjoyed this one, it's only my opinion.
Plus, hormones. (I will use that one until I can't anymore, that I swear!)
Profile Image for Chelsea.
1,143 reviews598 followers
May 3, 2016
So to start off my review we’re going to have storytime! I’m not sure if you guys know this, but I’m a writer as well as a reader. I’ve been writing from a young age, and when I was about ten I had this one character I was always jazzed up to write about. Her name was Kaori, and her personality was basically that she was the most obnoxious person in the world. I thought she was an absolute riot, basically because every time someone talked to her I got to write whatever the rudest thing that popped into my head as her response. I’ll admit, that was pretty fun, and maybe even entertaining at times, but I would never want to read a book about her.

And that the problem with It's a Wonderful Death.

RJ Jones, the main character, is basically a carbon copy of Kaori. They’re so alike it’s scary. And my god, it was annoying.

Before I get into that, let’s talk about the book itself. This book is about RJ, a stereotypical popular girl. Her soul is accidentally collected by a grim reaper, within like the first page, thanks for the background and character development.

Weirdly, RJ doesn’t seem all that concerned with the fact that she died, rather that fellow mean girl Felicity might steal her crown. The book details RJ as she makes her way through an extremely weird version of the afterlife in hopes of getting back to Earth and along the way “becoming a better person”.

Guys, am I an idiot or does that sound like the plot of a Disney Channel Original Movie? This book kind feels like that too, in the way that it takes itself so seriously but you’re really just sitting there rolling your eyes.

Now I understand that the author was going for snarky when she wrote RJ’s character, but you have to understand that there’s a huge difference between snarky and just plain ridiculous. I honestly wanted to punch RJ in the face for the first half of this book.

(That was me reacting to RJ by the way)

I also couldn’t buy her as a 17 year old girl. To me she sounded much more like a 10 year old to me. Her “snark” was whiny and bratty, and she pouted more than a 3 year old. She says things like “totally” and “bestie” all the time, which gets real old real fast.

I don’t understand why in a book where we talk about suicide, drunk driving, and death there isn’t any swearing. You’re telling me Death Himself doesn’t swear? That’s honestly a minor qualm, but I think cursing would have made this book a lot more believable.

I got really tired of constantly hearing how speshul RJ is. She’s vain and awful, but everyone’s always sticking up for her and saying how good she is inside and that she isn’t like everyone else. If you’ve been on Goodreads for longer than 5 minutes you know nobody likes those speshul snowflake protagonists.

I can’t forget though, RJ undergoes a major personality change throughout the book, and by major I mean she goes from bullying everyone in her school to hanging out with cancer patients and pushing kids out of the way of moving cars. Yeah, sorry but I’m not buying it. Way too drastic to be believable.

Not to mention the entire depiction of the afterlife was absurd. First of all, there are no dogs, so if God forbid this is the real version of the afterlife, I’m not going. The angels and Death Himself acted more like idiotic teenagers than anything else, and the religious aspect didn’t make any sense.

Last thing, I’ve never read a book where a character asks that many questions! They reference the fact that there’s a ridiculous amount of questions in the book, but doesn’t make it any less annoying.

I was going to say I thought of a drinking game to play when reading this book, which would be take a drink every time someone asks a stupid question, but considering that there’s between 5-11 questions in every two pages, if my math is right (which it probably isn’t) you’d have taken somewhere around 1200 drinks by the end of book. So basically you’d have alcohol overdosed by like chapter five. So don’t play that game.

So obviously I wasn’t a big fan of this one. I wouldn’t recommend picking it up, unless you want to just for the lolz, because it's entertaining to read a book like this. 1 ½ stars
Profile Image for Christy.
139 reviews45 followers
February 25, 2017
Can I just say I loved this book!!! So much! Yes...she was a mean girl, but everyone deserves a second chance and a chance to redeem themselves. So good!
Profile Image for Kim at Divergent Gryffindor.
470 reviews131 followers
October 17, 2015
Actual rating: 4.5

It's a Wonderful Death is by far the best book I've read about heaven and hell and there wasn't even romance in it! For those people who know me, you should know that I rarely read books that contain no romance at all, and it's even rarer that for me to like those books. Clearly, this book is an exception.

It's a Wonderful Death is about a girl named RJ who was mistakenly collected by a Grim Reaper when it was not time for her death yet. RJ, a queen bee in her school who was used to getting what she wants, demanded her case be heard and so a tribunal was convened. RJ was tasked to revisit three points in her life where she could alter her life for the better. If she could do this, then she would be returned to Earth. If not, she would stay in between heaven and hell while she waits for her actual time of death.

It's a Wonderful Death is an amazing eye-opening book about how our actions not only affect our lives and the lives of the people we know, but also those that we don't know. It also taught me that the smallest changes in our actions can cause really big difference to their outcomes. It made me realize that I should really think about my actions more since I might affect people that I didn't think I would. This book made me want to change for the better not because of the concept of going to heaven, but because I saw how good being kind to someone in need made RJ feel.

I really commend Sarah Schmitt for this amazing novel that is full of meaning. It deserves to be read by everyone and I hope that more people will read this and be enlightened by it as well.
Profile Image for Sarah.
400 reviews134 followers
Shelved as 'd-n-f'
February 2, 2016
DNF @ about 20%. Not in the mood for this kind of book and I doubt I will read the rest of it in the future.
Profile Image for Melissa (thereaderandthechef).
532 reviews168 followers
October 9, 2015
Peeps, I don't know if I should cry or laugh or shake my fist at the sky. This book, gosh, this book was so awesome. It's the kind of book that YOU KNOW right from the start that you'll enjoy and will probably remember for the rest of your life. It's sooooo beautiful. And funny and a million other great things.

Why I loved It's A Wonderful Death:

1. RJ. This girl is awesome. A handful to be honest, and at times so darn frustrating, but she's cool nonetheless. Since RJ was reaped by accident, she never shut ups about it and achieves what no one else in the afterlife had ever achieved-- an audience to gain back her mortality. RJ made me laugh constantly and I liked her attitude. I did at times yell at her halfheartedly to stop talking, but I was 100% cheering her on to gain back her right to live. Is she a mean girl? Yes, a bit, but a redeemable one. She does have a good heart.

2. The Afterlife. I guess we'll never know until we get to experience it for ourselves, but the afterlife in It's A Wonderful Death is such a swift process and it doesn't sound THAT bad. You die, you board a train, arrive at a lobby-type place, grab your life disc, watch your most memorable moments, and then go to judgement to either be placed in Heaven or Hell (which is like a rehab kind of place). After that, I think you can even get a job because you have to be useful somehow. This Afterlife is so queer, and the people that run it are even more queer! Definitely not how you imagined them to be. Like Death Himself! So amusing.

3. The Life-Changing Journey. Like I said at first, this book stays with you because RJ's journey makes you stop and think about how your choices not only affect your life, but others as well. RJ gets the opportunity to revisit A Christmas Carol style some key points during her lifetime where she made choices that ruined the outcome for others and further pushed herself to the bad side, and with the help of the other characters wanting her to have a second chance in life, she reflects and stands up to the obstacles she feared to face in the past.

4. A story that doesn't need romance to be GREAT. Okay, a must admit I was a bit bummed about it at first because I do love romance in my books, but now reflecting upon it, It's A Wonderful Death did pretty great without it. I'm talking about romance with the main character here, because there is a teensy teensy bit with secondary characters. But I really don't want to go in there because I feel like crying.

Tells you a secret? I was originally going to give this book four stars, but nope, I can't bring myself to do it, it's not enough. Romance? Who needs romance when you have so many feels running around because of the sheer beauty of friendship and second chances? And UGH, feels for how life and fate are the way they are! FIVE STARS, YOU GUYS, FIVE HAPPY, YET TEAR-STAINED STARS. ♥

*Thanks go out to the tour host and Edelweiss for the eARC in exchange for my honest opinion. This review can also be found at The Reader and the Chef.*
Profile Image for Caro [The Book Rogue].
264 reviews51 followers
November 24, 2019
Why I picked this story up:

A snarky heroine in some serious trouble, Death Himself in a Hawaii shirt, a power-hungry archangel, a first row seat to the mysterious inner workings of the afterlife -- tribunal style, the general chance of a do-over to make a life worth saving? SOLD! Seriously, how could I possibly resist that?!

What I found:

I want to get Schmitt's words right back at her: "humbling, but not preachy". It's a Wonderful Death is a truly dramatic, tragic, touching story about how the choices we make define us as a person as we come to a crossroads time and again, that the easy way isn't necessarily the right way, and how we, our personalities, and the lives we lead are also a part of someone else's life. I think those are things we forget all too often when we get caught in the routine of everyday life. We so easily forget that we're not all islands just floating about in the same sea, and I want to say thank you for this amazing book that unleashed a whirlwind of emotions reminding me of everything life has to offer, to appreciate every breath, and to make a difference every chance I get with something as effortless as a smile. Because life isn't just about what we achieve for ourselves, it's also about all those we touch around us.

RJ was sympathetic right away -- I just love me some snarky heroine, especially if she's also fierce enough to back that up. RJ knew how to dig her heals in and, almost literally, raise hell if that's what it took. "Supernova" really was the right word to describe her with, even though her old life was scorching the people in her path in an entirely different way than it did at her second chance. The whole set-up of having a chance to set some things right at three points in your life, even the tribunal setting, wasn't new at all, but Schmitt picked really good situations -- all induced by fear. But you know the best part? RJ didn't come out as a better person in the end. Yep, that's right, she didn't. She already was a good person from the get go, she didn't need to change. She only needed to be brave enough to be that good person in those precise moments.

So the reason RJ doesn't get full flashy 5 heroine stars from me as a character is because I think Schmitt cheated a tadbit here. You see, I think RJ only aced the test because it was her older, smarter, tougher self who stuck up to the bully in that first scene. Not that I didn't like it, I totally loved it, but it leaves the question unanswered if she could've also been the better person if she was completely back in the mindset of coming face-to-face with her first bully, or if she would have chosen the easy way out yet again.

I also want to give another slight slap on the wrist for the whole power-struggle issue. I feel the book would've rocked just as much without it, a real accident getting the afterlife in upheaval, and magical beings taking sides simply because of their personalities -- and not because there were other things on the conspiracy agenda. Because, really, being a pawn in this didn't influence RJ's behavior, at least not on the scale it should have fit her personality. So yeah, those two things together make half a point off supernova girl. Still love her to death, of course -- pun intended.

Yeah, I don't want to give away anything else, so I'm just saying the whole thing is perfectly hilarious, partly ridiculous, and I can totally see the more religious readers bristling on the setting, but especially on all the sidekicks from the afterlife. Haven't laughed that hard from a YA read in a long while, it was very refreshing. But it didn't feel mocking to me, not in the slightest. Quite the contrary, actually -- I felt the love pour off every page. And the fact that there weren't happy endings for everyone involved tipped this off to be so... real. Couldn't help some tears, either. Full points on style to capture every emotion just right. It's a Wonderful Death is most definitvely among my Top 5 reads this year, and I know I will love re-reading this a few times.

Area Scan: Idea: 5/5 -- Style/Vocab: 5/5 -- Plot: 5/5 -- Heroine: 4.5/5 -- Hero: 5/5 -- Sidekicks: 5/5 -- Hearts: 5/5 -- Tears: 5/5 -- Thrills: 4/5 -- Laughs: 5/5
Overall: 5+/5
Profile Image for Samantha.
272 reviews35 followers
October 4, 2015
Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for providing me a copy of this book to review!

This book far exceeded my expectations! When I read the description I thought it would be a fun book to read. Man was I wrong! Not that it didn’t have it moment’s, but it was filled with so much emotions as well! It wasn’t just a fun read it was an emotional one that left me smiling and crying, and I’m just going to love it forever! It really left me thinking about life and how people’s actions and decisions can affect not only their lives, but so many others as well!

The book begins when RJ, the high school queen bee and biggest mean girl accidentally gets taken by the grim reaper. Of course she isn’t happy about it. She has a lot of life left to live and is about to become homecoming queen. So she starts complaining like crazy telling everyone about the mistake. At first nobody seems to listen to her until her guardian angel shows up going crazy because she lost her only to find her in the afterlife. Somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be for a very long time. After ranting long enough and getting the attention of the higher ups she gets a tribunal to decide if time gets altered so she can go back to her life or if they should just make her wait out the rest of her original lifespan in the afterlife. RJ’s biggest problem turns out being that she really wasn’t a good person at all, and didn’t really do anything good in her life. So really there’s no reason for them to send her back. It’s not like she’ll make any positive change to the world by living. Lucky for her Death manages to get her a deal. She has to go back to three points in her life and attempt to change what she did wrong and make her future something that is worth saving.

I LOVED RJ!!!! JUST LOVED HER!!! Which is funny because everything in this book says that she’s supposed to be a complete bitch! When reading the description that’s what I expected as well, but she’s funny, snarky, sarcastic and never knows when to shut up! A pretty entertaining combination! At first she really doesn’t seem to understand how bad she really was, but what’s so great about her character is that as soon as she sees herself through other eyes she wants to be better. She hates the person she became and she wants to be the type of person people could be proud of. Slowly we get to see the person she was meant to be, before her bad decisions took her on a different path.

When she changes the past it makes so much in the future so much better! She didn’t only make the future better for herself, but for so many others! She grows so much and really not even until the end does she realize it, but we see it as it happens. This book shows us that in life when you do anything or make any kind of decision it doesn’t only affect you, but others as well. It shows there’s more to life than material things. That you shouldn’t let fear control you. That you need to learn when to stand up for yourself and others, and that people can have many friends, but only some are true friends, and that getting to have them in your life is worth any pain you might have to live with later.

This book was such a roller coaster! It was inspiring, heartbreaking, funny, crazy and heartfelt, and had such amazing characters! There wasn’t even a lot of Daniel, Madeline or Sandy, but still I loved them and felt an emotional connection to them! The afterlife in this book is insane and the characters there are pretty awesome! The world building the author did for the afterlife was incredible! I wish I can keep on gushing about her tests and everything, but I’m afraid that if I say too much I’ll spoil something, and this book is an experience you need to go through for yourself! So I’m going to shut up now and thank the author for such an amazing book!
Profile Image for Yzabel Ginsberg.
Author 3 books102 followers
February 24, 2016
[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

Cute in some ways, although I really couldn't get along with the main character, which is my main gripe with this novel: I get that RJ had to start with room to change in terms of personality and actions, since otherwise there wouldn't have been such a fuss about whether she should be allowed to go back to living... but she was seriously annoying. What she considered witty and snarky comebacks were ridiculous and whiny, and I definitely won't fault any of the other characters for calling her a spoiled princess. She came off as a brat, which made it very difficult to root for her and to want to see her unfair circumstances changed.

And they were unfair, so at least one could understand why she felt entitled to try and fight that “oh, I accidentally killed you instead of that other person I was meant to reap... Whoops, too bad, let's move on, welcome to the afterlife, please get in line.” It's just that after a while, my reactions were to roll my eyes at yet another iteration of RJ blabbing and putting her foot in her mouth when probably anybody and everybody else would have understood *now* was the time to shut up. Maybe it's just me who can't stand such characters. Or maybe she was just, well, more annoying than she was meant to be: befitting her personality, but still not something I'd like to read about for 200 pages. It didn't help that so many people in the afterlife tended to view her as special, as deserving to see her case appealed—I couldn't see why so many people would side with her. Her success would set a precedent, yet I can't believe people in general would root for a self-entitled brat without having second thoughts about it. (Granted, some characters were in it for the power struggle and for cashing in favours: this at least felt logical.)

Fortunately, after RJ goes through her “trials”, she does become a more pleasant person to follow—not really because of her actions, in fact, but because her shark was more toned down and felt more “well-placed” than “bratty”.

Another problem, that I don't know how to describe exactly: the changes she went through seemed drastic and a bit too much on the unbelievable side for me to buy them (from self-centered bully and special snowflake to nice girl who stands up for her friends and does good deeds). However, I think this has much more to do with RJ's trials, which I felt were too short and handled too quickly. Basically the focus was much more on the “world of the afterlife”, on secondary characters like Cerberus' handler, on the angel presiding over the tribunal and the antagonistic relationship between him and Death, and this left little room for RJ actually reliving some important moments of her past and figuring out what she had failed to do the first time. Had those been more in the spotlight, had there been more of such moments (or had these three just been longer, with more conundrums for RJ to tackle), it would've made her change more convincing. As they were, they ended up an afterthought, a sort of checkpoint, rather than the turning points the blurb made me expect them to be. The desired outcome was so obvious anyway...

Daniel and Madeline were nice characters, too, with Madeline casting a fresh breeze over them all: knowing she was going to die, and nevertheless choosing to live her life on her own terms, in joy and friendship (sorry, the “I'm terminally ill so I'm entitled to be an asshole” attitude doesn't sit well with me either).

Overall the plot was sweet, though simplistic, with only a couple of twists that I could see coming, to be honest. Like a nicely wrapped gift box whose contents you've already guessed. It won't be more to me than “it's nice”. I didn't like the book, I didn't dislike it, and it'll likely end up as one of those reads I'll forget quickly.
Profile Image for Kim.
272 reviews240 followers
September 24, 2015
It’s interesting how some three star books are “good” three stars, and some three star books are “bad” three stars. This is definitely the case of a “good” three star. It’s a book that I genuinely enjoyed, and one that was funny, deep, and alternately light hearted yet heart aching throughout. I suppose this is the part where I admit to you, friends, that I have been in such a terrible reading slump for well over a month now. Nothing (other than Cara McKenna’s excellent romance novels it seems) is getting through to me at the real emotional level. This novel was good and affecting, but some emotions just didn’t get through to me, and I can’t tell if it’s me and my slump or the book. Frustrating!

So the premise goes that RJ’s soul is accidentally reaped and she is sent onto the Afterlife for “processing”. The Afterlife was a fully-realized realm displaying a combination of Christian and Greek myths. RJ gets bounced around between a variety of angels, reapers, other otherworldly beings, and even Death Himself. Did you know the Afterlife has a ton of bureaucracy that makes simple requests like reuniting your soul with the unjust separation from its body? Well, it does. It was so entertaining to watch RJ interact with a variety of well known figures; everyone from St. Peter to Cerberus. And all of the characters we meet were so colorful. The book was just plain fun, especially for those who enjoy watching characters from mythology and religion come to life.

Find the rest of my review at The Midnight Garden.
Profile Image for irene.
1,157 reviews32 followers
January 20, 2017
Cute, funny and kind of inspiring.

(The afterlife seemed a little ridiculous, but I liked the moral).

Everything you do has a consequence. Good, bad, indifferent, there is always a price to pay. The question is: who pays? Sometimes making the right choice means you might lose something that seems important at the time.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,102 reviews287 followers
April 2, 2016
Huh, that wasn't what I expected. It was pretty comparable to a few other similar books I read but I did feel less emotional connection to the characters. The story was REALLY interesting, complex, and entertaining. Definitely glad I read it!
Profile Image for Brina.
307 reviews42 followers
May 3, 2020
Oh my gosh....

Where to start?

Positive points:
- The characters. They are heart-warming, sweet, sometime means but never vicious. Most of them warm up after a good debate.
- We jump straight into the story.
- The main character goes from mean girl to GOOD PERSON. And it is NOT CLICHÉ. I could've cried! It was so well done! The transition was so smooth.
- The Afterlife actually seems amazing.
- This book actually took some pain away from losing people that were dear to me. It made me smile, and cried a little.
- The writing style was simple, yet smooth. It didn't any of the richness from the tender moments away.

Negative points:
- The book was too short! But at the same time, perfect length for the story? I don't know what I'm saying anymore. I'm still mushy inside from reading this book.

I just... gahhhh. Feel happy from reading this. I honestly think it can help some people grieve.
Profile Image for ash.
412 reviews13 followers
March 28, 2019
This was initially conceptually interesting, but the execution was really bad with periods of middling and aggressively awful. It repeatedly set up potentially interesting characters and plot elements and then let them fizzle out unexploited. RJ is a hackneyed one-note ~mean girl who you end up dejectedly cheering for only because the people around her are acting like bigger assholes than she is, which I think is almost always a waste of my energy as a reader. It's super preachy and weirdly obsessed with its vision of the afterlife. Also, the ending is... incredibly dumb.

The thing I have thought about the most though, is the moment where it goes out of its way to clarify that only virgins can be angels. This seemed so egregiously gross that I had to check when the book was released and I was genuinely shocked when I saw that it was 2015.

A final, particularly petty note: what is the DEAL with the dolphin ring? Like, we've all seen Independence Day, right? Why are we reliving that aesthetic movement in a book that came out in 2015?
Profile Image for Nicole M. Hewitt.
1,422 reviews282 followers
October 7, 2015
3.5/5 Stars

This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

It's a Wonderful Death is a fun, snarky take on the Afterlife.

What fed my addiction:

The humor in this book was perfect for me - just the type of tongue-in-cheek, snarky humor that I love. I always say this with this type of book, but I'll say it again - the humor reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which for me is pretty much instant perfection. There was more of this type of humor at the beginning of the book (since RJ was sort of a season one Cordelia - for those other Buffy fans out there), but even as the book got sweeter, Schmitt managed to keep flashes of that humor - even if it was slightly less snarky.

RJ's character development.
RJ starts out as a pretty unlikable character (but her snark kept me enjoying her) - the idea is that she has a good heart deep down but that she is a follower. She'll sacrifice others' needs and feelings for social status. According to the folks in the Afterlife, she's wandered off her path. At first, RJ is pretty resistant to the idea that she has to change. After all, the life reel that she watches is only showing her bad moments - where are the fun things, the happy things? Don't they define her as much as the moments she chose to hurt someone? In some ways, I sympathized with her. After all, haven't we all done things we regret? If judgment means that we have to watch everything bad we've done, it will be pretty miserable for all of us, right? But, slowly, RJ starts to realize the true impact of her words and actions, and when she's given the opportunity to change, she actually wants to. I loved seeing her transform into a completely different person by the end of the book!

The Afterlife.
Schmitt's imagining of the Afterlife was incredibly fun. RJ gets to meet angels, Peter (at the gates of Heaven), Cerberus's handler, Death himself (who wears a Hawaiian shirt and likes to surf) ... the list goes on and on (she also sees Buddha at the gates - the point is made that the Afterlife is for everyone). These characters were often not at all what RJ had expected and they took her (and me!) by surprise!

No romance.
There was absolutely zero romance in this book and I found that I didn't miss it one bit (which I wouldn't usually imagine to be true).

What left me wanting more:

The middle of the book.
I thought that this book started off really strong and it ended really strong, but there was a portion in the middle that lost me for a while. First off, I thought that the lead-up to RJ's trial and the trial itself lasted a little too long. It probably didn't help that the synopsis pretty much tells you what the results of said trial would be, so I was just waiting to get to that part. Then when it did get to the part where RJ replays three moments in her life, it was all a little too ... easy. I mean, of course RJ makes better decisions the second time around - hindsight is 20/20, right? Plus, it didn't feel all that altruistic to me because she was still just acting to save herself. She knew that she had to make better choices in order to get her life back, so she wasn't really making them just to be a better person - she was still being selfish, in my opinion, it just so happened that, in this case, her selfishness helped people instead of hurt them. I really wished that she had been less aware of her experiences in the Afterlife during the actual trials, so that we could feel like she had actually changed and not just that she was acting to save herself. I will say that this was pretty much rectified by the end of the book, though, and I really enjoyed the last twenty percent of the book and where it all led.

I thought that this book was a really enjoyable read, even if it did have some flaws. It started out strong, lagged a bit in the middle and picked up again in the end. Luckily,, the fun and snarky elements helped make up for the slump in the middle. Overall, I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Profile Image for Ellen-Arwen Tristram.
Author 1 book62 followers
October 31, 2022
1.5 stars. We-e-ell... it was kind of funny to start with I guess. That's such a damning start to a review - I'm sorry! This YA book is about a teenager who dies accidentally (as in, it wasn't her fate to die, the reaper got it wrong) and how she moves from being brattish, stubborn and self-absorbed to... almost a paragon? I mean - really? I'm all for character development but it was just so FAKE.

RJ would probably have been one of the mean girls in 'Mean Girls.' Popular, bitchy, fashion-obsessed, gets off by stomping people into the ground. You know the kind. I know you don't have to like an MC for a successful novel, but she irritated me so much it became a problem. I didn't like her, and she didn't grow on me.

Potentially good concept, but not very well executed. (I mean, wanting to strangle the MC even when she's supposedly changed for the better probably isn't a good sign). The beginning was also pretty graunchy. Not for me I'm afraid!
Profile Image for dealwithapril.
424 reviews68 followers
October 5, 2015
I decided to picked up a book that's light and short in between reading The Six of Crows but as soon as a started It’s A Wonderful Death, I just can’t stop. So, obviously I finished this in just 3 hours. This was such a surprise good read for me. I didn’t expect to like this as much as I do. As I said I just wanted a breather from reading such a gritty fantasy that is Six of Crows but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It’s light,thoughtful and funny considering it tackles about death and second chances.


I love it! It’s been a while since I’ve read something that is about the afterlife and it wasn’t as good and as enjoyable as this book. Anyways, this story follows the story of a teenage girl whose soul was accidentally reaped by a Grim reaper and as she was about to be whisked away to the afterlife she makes a stand to get her life back and by stand, I mean three major angels was forced to have a tribunal to hear her case and it was awesome. A trial in limbo with angels as the judges, lawyers? Yes, please!


I loved the main character,RJ Jones. She’s strong willed, sarcastic, funny, a little self-absorbed, but like her guardian angel said she still has a few redeemable qualities. Aside from RJ, I also loved the characters that the protagonist’s got to meet along the way specially the celestial beings and souls during her brief stay in limbo aka the “processing area”. I also liked the supporting human characters, particularly her real friends and her parents they were quite likable but I would say that my favorite ones are her Grim reaper, Gideon and Death himself. I loved how the author changes the image of both such terrifying characters. She has done a great job in making everything seems lighter and funnier and just less terrifying, the whole death/afterlife thing.


I did breeze through the whole thing so it’s safe to say that the narration was great. It has a nice easy pace; it wasn’t overly done when it comes to the dialogues. It was realistic for something contemporary but with a touch of paranormal. In short it was a very believable story.

Overall, this was such a wonderful read. You’ll definitely laugh especially when it comes to RJ and her feisty comments but you’ll also get a little bit emotional on some parts. This isn’t entirely just about the afterlife; it’s about second chances in life and death after all. The whole time I’m reading It’s a Wonderful Death, it sort of gave me this sense of ease when it comes to my perspective of what death is. I mean it’s still a terrifying thing to think about, no one knows what will happen to us in the afterlife but you know with this book I get to realize some stuff including all the things that seems like it doesn’t matter but the truth is they are the ones that makes the biggest impact in your life.

October 11, 2015
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My stop on the blog tour can be found at Donnie Darko Girl.

You know how there are books with gorgeous covers that immediately attract your attention, so you check out the synopsis, and you're like, I've gotta read this book! It sounds too awesome to miss! And you're so excited, you even forget how beautiful the cover is because you're looking forward to diving inside to the story?

That's how IT'S A WONDERFUL DEATH was for me. I couldn't wait to dive into the meat of this story. Could. Not. Wait. I had all kinds of scenarios I was imagining, and it was exciting. Really and truly exciting. Plus, I love to see how authors imagine the afterlife to be. It's always interesting and never disappointing.

So in IT'S A WONDERFUL DEATH, popular girl RJ dies before her time because she's accidentally touched by a Grim Reaper, and as you can imagine, she's super pissed. Though she's a brat, I actually liked her snark and couldn't help but laugh at her attitude. Sure, she's self-entitled and stuck up and desperate to retain her popularity, but she's also very real. There are people like her out there (I know, right?!), and I actually found myself rooting for her.

I wrote this status update when I began reading the book: I'm only 14% in so far, & I love it so much! It's so funny and snarky and adorable!

There were things I liked about IT'S A WONDERFUL DEATH, and things I didn't like. As I mentioned, I liked RJ quite a bit. One thing that bothered me was how Death was called "Death Himself" every time he was mentioned, although I ended up getting used to it. I understood why he was referred to that way the first time, but after that I thought it was unnecessary.

I wanted more from the moments where RJ was to go back in for a do-over. Those moments didn't last long enough for me, and it seemed almost too easy for RJ to change her thinking and thus change her future. People don't change overnight, so I wish more time had been spent on RJ's transformation because I loved seeing her change. I think time spent on the trial could have been better spent on RJ's moments back in time fixing what she didn't get right the first time around.

It was refreshing to have a story that didn't revolve around a romance. There are touches of romance in IT'S A WONDERFUL DEATH, but it isn't the crux of the story. I really appreciated that.

The ending was really surprising! I wasn't expecting it to end the way it did. This isn't to say I didn't like it. I'm not disappointed at all - I think it was a fitting end, I just didn't see it coming. It caught me off guard, which is a good thing. I like not being able to predict things in books.

Overall, I recommend IT'S A WONDERFUL DEATH for anyone who loves a good story with redemption and exploration of life, death, and what it all means.
Profile Image for Laura.125Pages.
322 reviews19 followers
October 1, 2015
Original review at www.125pages.com

I received this book for free from Edelweiss via YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

♦I loved the show Dead Like Me featuring a snarky teenage grim reaper. So I was happily surprised that It’s a Wonderful Death reminded me so much of it. Not so much in the story, but in the tone. RJ and Georgia are both unapologetic about not liking their post-living situations and their frankness is why I like them. RJ is a mean girl waiting for Homecoming when she is accidentally reaped at a school carnival; to say she does not care for this turn of events is putting it mildly. The interplay between a pissed-off teenager soul and the bureaucracy of the afterlife made what could have been a schmaltzy story a fun, nuanced tale. The plot was well paced and the world created was very real. I enjoyed the majority of the characters; a few seemed not as well placed in their environments but this did not detract from the overarching appeal of the book. All told this was a very solid debut novel that I truly enjoyed.

◊ Favorite lines from Chapter 38 – “So we’re just really just born to die?” I ask? Gideon shakes his head. “What’s the reason then?” “Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. Once you have done those two things, you have accomplished your life mission and it’s time to come home.”
Profile Image for Capri’sBookIsland.
364 reviews278 followers
February 20, 2023
oh boy oh boy oh boy . THIS book where do i start. it took me a while to get into it because the main character aggravated me at some points in the book. It was like the world revolved around her and how she was an amazing person and just ughhhhh every time she spoke i was like um stop. however. i did enjoy how the character grew and learned more about being a better person and i also enjoyed the back flashes of her life and i enjoyed the way they structured heaven and hell and the angels. but if you don't believe in either or... this is not the book for you 😂 its completely structured around the afterlife. i did enjoy it at times but in the end

When she ended up dying anyways it kind of left me aggravated by anticipating what the outcome would be while reading the entire time. What was the point of it all i she died a damn day later. . overall i enjoyed the book. would i read it again...... maybe... stars three! do i recommend it lol no and yes... depends on who I'm recommending it to. but it was an ok book! =T
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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