Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery, Book 1)
by Kim Harrison
Cover Artist: Gustavo Marx / MergeLeft Reps, Inc.
Review by Gayle Surrette
HarperCollins Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061718168
Date: 01 June 2009 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Madison Avery had been sent by her mother to live with her father in Three Rivers, the college town he worked in. Madison had been getting into a lot of trouble and her mother couldn't handle her anymore. Her father hoped to make the transition to a new town and school easier, and hoped that going to the prom would help her fit in. Unfortunately, finding out that her father had arranged her date didn't help her temper, and then she was killed by the boy who'd offered to take her home. Luckily, she managed to steal his amulet and while she was now dead, she had the appearance of life. She didn't have her body but it looked like she did. This half-life sucked, not because she was a vamp or anything weird like that, but because she now had an angel trying to teach her how to communicate mind-to-mind, while the other angels tried to figure out what to do with her. Madison didn't like other people telling her what to do or how to do it. Nope, she'll do things her way…
I found Once Dead, Twice Shy to be a fascinating change of pace for Kim Harrison. Madison Avery is a wonderful character that's the perfect mix of child, teen, and adult -- mixed together and trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss as they settle on their identity. Death hasn't changed Madison other than losing her body. She's still trying to fit in, be herself, and not get in trouble with teachers, parents, or other authority figures. She's also got a pretty good handle on what is right and what is wrong and where she stands on the whole theory of free will and destiny.
It turns out that there's a group of reapers who believe in free will, and another who believe that destiny rules and people who will cause harm should be taken before they can do any damage. The moral dilemma here is very reminiscent of Philip K. Dicks "Minority Report": is it right to arrest or kill someone because they might someday do something wrong? I don't know what Harrison thinks about this issue, she simply sets the scene and allows her characters to act in accordance with their personalities. The reader gets to watch them deal with these questions in the context of the story and their lives.
As with all the previous novels I've read by Harrison, the characters are well developed and the setting and situations while fantastic are believable. There are no easy answers in life. Life is often not fair. Dying young and finding yourself going about your daily life as if nothing had happened isn't as trouble free as one would think. Madison's life will never be the same. While she clings to her humanity, she must also grow and change and learn. She also must deal with situations that she's not prepared for and all she can do is her best.
Marketed at a young adult novel, Once Dead, Twice Shy should hopefully find a niche among young people and adults who wish to read well told stories that give you something to think about after you finish the last page.