Publisher: Charlie Port-FRINGE
Author: Jessica Branton
Released: February 14th 2019
Warnings: Self harm
I received a copy of How to Experience Death for Beginners in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Jessica Branton is one of those authors where you just can’t help but be impressed by her age. She wrote How to Experience Death for Beginners when she was fourteen, though the novel is only getting published now.
How to Experience Death for Beginners follows a teenager named Casey. Like many teenagers she frequently feels overwhelmed with everything going on in her life. Unlike most teenagers though, Casey has a gift, though I imagine it really feels more like a curse. Casey can experience the death of those around her. They don’t have to be particularly close – just being somebody she knew in passing or being physically nearby at the time of the death is enough to set off her sight.
This novel is all about Casey’s growing acceptance of the gift/curse she has. The novel is one part paranormal mystery and one part coming of age story. There’s a healthy dose of teen romance thrown in as well, and a disturbing killer to boot (which must be especially awful for Casey).
Warnings: You’d probably imagine that for a concept like this that there would be a lot of graphic deaths involved. While there’s never any doubt about Casey experiencing a death, on the whole the details are mercifully brief. However, one of the characters in How to Experience Death For Beginners is a cutter. The scenes aren’t graphic, but the injuries, blood, and techniques used for hiding the injuries do come up a lot.
How to Experience Death for Beginners was an interesting read and experience, no pun intended. It wasn’t like anything I’ve read before, which lately that feels like it’s becoming more and more of a challenge. I’m sure others feel the same way.
The core concept of this novel was something I’d never seen before. A clairvoyant whose experiences truly do feel more like a curse than a gift. And all because her gifts are linked to death. I can’t imagine how that would be especially upsetting as a child and young adult. Having to go through formative years with that knowledge…it would be a challenge, to put it lightly.
Casey’s character is a bit rough, but that feels right, in a way. She’s emotionally traumatized and scarred, so naturally she’s done everything possible to close herself off from the world. Her friends are sometimes cute and endearing, and a shockingly good support system.
I want to give Jessica Branton credit for having written this novel when she was only fourteen. I couldn’t have done that. Heck, I still couldn’t do that now. It takes a lot of determination to actually sit down and write a complete novel. I’ve seen many many people give up during the process, so I always like reminding myself of the time and effort it takes.
Still, there were parts of this novel that were a little rough around the edges. Part of it was the writing. Part of it was the reactions to situations. Such as Casey’s friends reactions to her news, or Casey’s reactions to the self-harmer in her life.
I understand completely that she had no knowledge of the depth of the issues that go alongside self-harm, so I’m willing to overlook a lot of missteps that came up with how she handled that whole situation. But it took some effort, I’ll be honest (I blame my background in psychology for that, sorry!).
As far as debut novels go, this was an interesting one. I can see why it caught the attention of her publishers, and honestly do look forward to seeing what she comes out with next. My only hope would be that the next novel received a bit more polish.