Dead, Actually, by Kaz Delaney

Contrary to popular belief, the air in hell is freezing – because surely that’s where I’d somehow landed. My breath caught; my heart jerked…
My body froze.
My brain shut down.
I clutched at the doorframe.
But still she stared at me.
Her…A dead person. In my room.
Let me clarify: not a body, a dead person.
An already-buried, dead person.

Willow’s having a bad week. A very bad week. Her parents have told her they’re heading off to start a church in Africa. The guys she has a crush on treats her like a little sister. And then there’s the matter of JoJo Grayson, a rich girl who inconveniently visited the drive through where willow was working – and then went and died, making Willow the last person to see her alive. This means that Willow is the one that JoJo is haunting, and JoJo isn’t any nicer dead than she was alive. She’s going to make Willow’s life very difficult until Willow can figure out what happened in the lead-up to JoJo’s death.

In the meantime, Willow is suddenly popular. All of JoJo’s friends, the ‘in’ crowd, want to spend time with Willow, ostensibly to learn more about their dear departed friend. But Willow soon realises there are ulterior motives ta play. these people think Willow knows something – and they’re pretty keen to find out what it is.

Dead, Actually is a tragi-comic story of life, death, and life after death – and of friendship and family, too. There’s a lot happening in Willow’s life apart from the haunting, with her woefully inadequate parents having invited a shyster evangelist into their home and her feelings for her best friend’s brother, Seth. This could be a lot to deal with in one story, but Delaney does it well with the story unfolding over just a few days and the characters delightfully drawn. Willow is an endearing first person narrator, outwardly strong but with her vulnerability helping to make her believable, and JoJo is the girl you love to hate (even after she’s dead) but who you come to understand just a bit better.

Suitable for teen readers, Dead, Actually is a delightful blend of mystery, romance and the supernatural all wrapped up with comedy fiction.

Dead, Actually

Dead, Actually, by Kaz Delaney
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742378183

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