[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]
Cute in some ways, although I really couldn't get along with the main character, which is my main gripe with this novel: I get that RJ had to start with room to change in terms of personality and actions, since otherwise there wouldn't have been such a fuss about whether she should be allowed to go back to living... but she was seriously annoying. What she considered witty and snarky comebacks were ridiculous and whiny, and I definitely won't fault any of the other characters for calling her a spoiled princess. She came off as a brat, which made it very difficult to root for her and to want to see her unfair circumstances changed.
And they were unfair, so at least one could understand why she felt entitled to try and fight that “oh, I accidentally killed you instead of that other person I was meant to reap... Whoops, too bad, let's move on, welcome to the afterlife, please get in line.” It's just that after a while, my reactions were to roll my eyes at yet another iteration of RJ blabbing and putting her foot in her mouth when probably anybody and everybody else would have understood *now* was the time to shut up. Maybe it's just me who can't stand such characters. Or maybe she was just, well, more annoying than she was meant to be: befitting her personality, but still not something I'd like to read about for 200 pages. It didn't help that so many people in the afterlife tended to view her as special, as deserving to see her case appealed—I couldn't see why so many people would side with her. Her success would set a precedent, yet I can't believe people in general would root for a self-entitled brat without having second thoughts about it. (Granted, some characters were in it for the power struggle and for cashing in favours: this at least felt logical.)
Fortunately, after RJ goes through her “trials”, she does become a more pleasant person to follow—not really because of her actions, in fact, but because her shark was more toned down and felt more “well-placed” than “bratty”.
Another problem, that I don't know how to describe exactly: the changes she went through seemed drastic and a bit too much on the unbelievable side for me to buy them (from self-centered bully and special snowflake to nice girl who stands up for her friends and does good deeds). However, I think this has much more to do with RJ's trials, which I felt were too short and handled too quickly. Basically the focus was much more on the “world of the afterlife”, on secondary characters like Cerberus' handler, on the angel presiding over the tribunal and the antagonistic relationship between him and Death, and this left little room for RJ actually reliving some important moments of her past and figuring out what she had failed to do the first time. Had those been more in the spotlight, had there been more of such moments (or had these three just been longer, with more conundrums for RJ to tackle), it would've made her change more convincing. As they were, they ended up an afterthought, a sort of checkpoint, rather than the turning points the blurb made me expect them to be. The desired outcome was so obvious anyway...
Daniel and Madeline were nice characters, too, with Madeline casting a fresh breeze over them all: knowing she was going to die, and nevertheless choosing to live her life on her own terms, in joy and friendship (sorry, the “I'm terminally ill so I'm entitled to be an asshole” attitude doesn't sit well with me either).
Overall the plot was sweet, though simplistic, with only a couple of twists that I could see coming, to be honest. Like a nicely wrapped gift box whose contents you've already guessed. It won't be more to me than “it's nice”. I didn't like the book, I didn't dislike it, and it'll likely end up as one of those reads I'll forget quickly.