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Before she can rest in peace, Charlotte Usher must return to the tragic site of her death: high school. Once there, her assignment is to help a designated teen solve a personal problem in time for the all-important prom. But no one explained what happens if you fall in love with your class project. Charlotte would die (again) for love but facing the all-too-familiar feeling of invisibility may be too much for her to swallow.
Hurley, an independent filmmaker, debuts with this glittering comedy, a prime exemplar of what might be called demento mori, a growing subgenre of satire about teens who will not or cannot die. Charlotte Usher's plan to catapult herself from the ranks of the invisible to the heights of popularity at Hawthorne High no possibility for allusion goes unturned hits a major snag on the first day of school when she chokes to death on a gummy bear. Sent to Deadiquette school along with other teen spirits, she skips out, still determined to woo her longtime heartthrob, never mind that he doesn't even know I'm alive. The jokes stay sharp, from the goth girl who gives her a make-under to throwaway lines (caught breaking some cardinal rules, Charlotte mutters to herself, I'm dead ). Plotlines raise the stakes, putting Hurley's consistent wit to the service of classic themes about claiming identity. While the author has a built-in fan base from her ghostgirl Web sites, high-impact design will ensure attention from casual browsers as well. An elaborate die-cut with stamped acetate on the cover dares readers to laugh at a silhouette of a cartoon girl in an open casket, an effect heightened by the extra-tall trim size; inside, pink-and-black graphics liberally adorn the margins, epigraphs to chapter openings, etc. And given the polished dark-and-deadpan humor, it's a natural fit with Gen Y, too. Ages 12 up.