When Jana Webster dies in a tragic accident, she finds herself transferred to 'Dead School' in the afterlife, where students fall into distinct cliques. Risers (good kids who died innocently), Sliders (bad kids, who have one foot tied to earth) and Virgins (there are fewer than Jana would expect).
Jana's boyfriend and love of her life - Michael - is still in the land of the living. Michael is Romeo to Jana's Juliet and as the story goes... even death can't keep them apart. Tired of waiting for him to kill himself over his grief of losing her, Jana decides she needs to do it for him. To kill Michael she'll need the help of a dangerous and sexy Slider - Mars Dreamcoate. But Mars has a goal of his own: he wants to save a life to atone for having taken one in a drunk-driving accident. And to complicate matters, he was trying to save Jana when she died and saw what was really going on when her 'accident' happened.
Jana decides to do whatever it takes to get Michael back, and nothing - not even Mars' warm touch or the devastating secret he holds about her death - will stop her.
It's humiliating to die in a bowling accident, especially when it means going through the afterlife in a pair of bowling shoes. Even more serious for high school junior Jana Webster is the separation from her one true love, Michael. So although Jana is a "Riser" at the Dead School, on the fast track for salvation, she gravitates toward Mars, a "Slider" headed the other way, because he has the knowledge she needs to slip into the living world and affect things there. Michael must die for the lovers to spend eternity together, and that's worth any price even if Jana has to be the one to kill him. Despite the Southern gothic humor that runs throughout adult author Russell's first YA novel, he takes Jana's dilemma, and Mars's reaction to it, seriously. Jana's devotion to the idea of eternal love may be over the top, but it's a realistic form of excess, and Mars never scoffs. Laughter, for Russell, is not an act of mockery or ironic distance, but rather a marker for empathy with his very human characters. Ages 12 up.