After she’s murdered by a sexual predator, 18-year-old Jada Gayle must stay among the living until she finds and stops the Internet stalker who killed her. When the Afterlife Admissions Office assigns the now “transdead” Jada to a foster home back among the living, she assumes the identity of a newly-dead homeless teen and is expected to simply fit in as she hunts down her killer. Complicating things even more, Jada discovers that an addendum to her termination agreement was inadvertently left out of her paperwork and means she now must learn to deal with normal human emotions. How can a dead girl be expected to feel anything when life had left her so empty? Then she meets Lew Stanton—captain of the chess team and computer whiz who makes her dead heart beat phantom rhythms in her chest. As if it’s not bad enough to have the hots for a nerd, Jada’s new friend Annalee likes him too. While Jada deals with all this unwanted teenaged angst, the man who murdered her is closing in on more foolish girls. Jada thinks she has plenty of time to handle her predicament until the night she gets a terrifying message: I HAVE YOUR FRIEND.
Targeted Age Group:: 13-adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Honestly, I’m not a violent person. In fact, I’ve never been in a fight in my life. But the idea of anyone who could hurt or abuse a child makes me fantasize about how much fun it would be to punish child predators. Since I guess that’s against the law and probably frowned on by polite society, I wrote a book about it instead.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Jada is a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dexter. And since she’s dead, she has absolutely no fear in punishing the scumbags who are her targets. I didn’t intend for her to fall in love when I started writing, but how could she resist the captain of the chess team who wears a watch with square roots in place of numbers when he’s just so dang cute? And her new friend Annalee was easy to write because she’s the kind of best friend we all want.
When I heard the car doors unlock at the first red light I came to, I knew I’d made a fatal mistake. For a second I thought I’d accidentally hit the button, then I heard the Ferrari’s trunk pop open and looked in the rearview mirror just in time to see a man running around to the passenger side, a black bandana covering the bottom of his face.
“Drive!” He got in and jammed the nose of a freakishly big pistol into my ribs. “Go to the intersection and make a U-turn. Keep going until you get back to where you picked up the car.”
If I’d still felt emotions like normal girls, I probably would’ve been scared shitless, but the best I could manage was irritation that he’d tricked me.
“Look, you don’t need the gun,” I said. “I’ll do whatever you say.”
“You sure as hell will.”
Even more than his words, the laugh that came from behind the bandana was the second thing that told me I wouldn’t live to see nineteen. Dang, I’d need my fake ID for all eternity. And it wasn’t even a good picture.
I drove until I reached the spot where Courtney had dropped me off half an hour earlier. He told me to keep going over a small bridge and pull off on the dirt road just past. I figured it must’ve been used by people who fished in the lake, but nobody would be there this late at night.
“Pull between those trees,” he said. “Cut the engine and lights.”
I did as he ordered, wondering if I should try to open the door and make a run for it as soon as the car stopped. Before I could decide whether or not I wanted to risk it, I felt the gun dig deeper into my side.
“Don’t even think about trying to run,” he said in my ear. “The door locks are programmed, and I got the only remote.”
He snatched the keys from the ignition and put them in his pocket, then he pressed the gun into my neck.
“Now we’re gonna do all those things you liked telling me about so much in your messages. You know, all those naughty things you and your girlfriends like to do with the boys and the men teachers at school.”
I tried to swallow, but the gun was pressed too hard against my throat. “Hey, you know none of that stuff was true, right? I made it all up because you said you liked that kinda sh—”
“I know you made it up! I’m not a fool, you little tramp!” The nose of the pistol slammed against my cheekbone and set off fireworks behind my eyes. “I’m sure you had yourselves a good laugh over the way you kept feeding me your nasty little stories to get me all worked up. Well I bet your friends won’t think it’s so funny when they find out what it got you. And you sure as hell won’t be laughing at anybody ever again!”
The side of my face throbbed like a toothache and I still couldn’t see straight, but I heard the doors unlock.
“Get out!” He reached across me and opened the driver’s side door. “And remember what I said about trying to run. I’ll shoot you before you take a step!”
I stumbled out of the car and immediately tried to run anyway, but my legs had turned into cooked spaghetti. I fell to my knees on the bank, and before I had a chance to yell for help, a kick to the middle of my back knocked all the wind out of me. Gasping for air on the ground like a dying goldfish, all I got was a mouthful of sand.
“Get up!” He yanked me to my knees by the hair. “Take off your clothes, then get in the back seat!”
“Shut up and do what I tell you!” The gun smashed against my other cheekbone and knocked me sideways. “I’m the one in charge, not you.”
I knew I was close to blacking out and didn’t really care, and that gave me an idea. If I made him mad enough to hit me again, maybe it would knock me out so I wouldn’t have to know what he did to me before he killed me. I struggled to my hands and knees and managed to lift my head so I could say something that would piss him off for sure.
“You’re right, you know. I did laugh at you, you pathetic bastard. The only way you’d ever get laid is at gunpoint!”
After a brief flash of pain when the butt of the gun smashed into my skull, I welcomed the darkness.
But my oblivion didn’t last long.
When I opened my eyes again, I was sitting on an upholstered chair in a room that almost looked like the guidance counselor’s office at Tallahassee Premier Academy where I was a senior. But here everything was painted such a bright white that it almost hurt my eyes, and the sign on the door to my left leading into the inner office was lettered in some kind of glowing gold paint.
When I got up to read the sign, I realized I was wearing some kind of weird white dress. Where had that come from? Had somebody found me and taken me to a hospital?
I knew that wasn’t the case when I read the sign on the door: AFTERLIFE ADMISSIONS OFFICE.
“Oh, crap. I’m dead.”
About the Author:
JOYCE SCARBROUGH is a Southern woman weary of seeing herself and her peers portrayed in books and movies as either post-antebellum debutantes or barefoot hillbillies á la Daisy Duke, so all her heroines are smart, unpretentious women who refuse to be anyone but themselves. Joyce has three published novels as well as several short stories available as Kindle downloads. She writes both adult and YA fiction and is active in her regional chapter of SCBWI. Joyce has lived all her life in beautiful LA (lower Alabama), she’s the mother of three gifted children and a blind Pomeranian named Tilly, and she’s been married for 31 years to the love of her life—a superhero who disguises himself during the day as a high school math teacher and coach.