Jonas – Beautiful Dead
by Eden Maguire
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Available: April 2nd 2009
Genre: Young Adult
Book received from: Purchased by reviewer
Guest Reviewer: J.A. Saare
Something strange is happening in Ellerton High. Phoenix is the fourth teenager to die within a year. His street fight stabbing follows the deaths of Jonas, Summer and Arizona in equally strange and sudden circumstances.
Rumours of ghosts and strange happenings rip through the small community as it comes to terms with shock and loss. Darina,Phoenix’s grief-stricken girlfriend, is on the verge. She can’t escape her intense heartache, or the impossible apparitions of those that are meant to be dead. And all the while the sound of beating wings echo inside her head! And then one day Phoenix appears to Darina.
Ecstatic to be reunited, he tells her about the Beautiful Dead. Souls in limbo, they have been chosen to return to the world to set right a wrong linked to their deaths and bring about justice. Beautiful, superhuman and powerful, they are marked by a ‘death mark’ – a small tattoo of angel’s wings. Phoenix tells her that the sound of invisible wings beating are the millions of souls in limbo, desperate to return to earth.Darina’s mission is clear: she must help Jonas, Summer, Arizona, and impossibly, her beloved Phoenix, right the wrong linked to their deaths to set them free from limbo so that they can finally rest in peace. Will love conquer death? And if it does, can Darina set it free?
In a young-adult market saturated by teen angst, sparkling vampires, cutting, binging, and unrequited romance, it’s not often that you find something that breaks away from the pack, offering something original and unique for the reader to enjoy. So it’s always a joy when you find a book that intrigues, captivates, and forces you to remember what it is about the genre that lures you back time and again. Such is the case with The Beautiful Dead: Book One — Jonas, the start to a promising series by author Eden Maguire.
Take what you know about zombies and throw it out the window. In this story, zombies are the Beautiful Dead, returned to life to right the wrongs that caused their demise. Empowered with a multitude of abilities, these alive, yet dead, entities are as beautiful in death as they were in life. Brought back from the grave and graced with an angel wing-like tattoo pinpointing the exact cause of their death, they have one-year to put the wrong things right, after which they return to the realm between life and death. It’s a fascinating concept, especially when you combine it with elements of love, heartbreak, and hope.
The heroine is a devastated and forlorn Darina. In the last year, four students at her high school have died, including her beloved boyfriend Phoenix. Despondent and uncertain, she ventures to an abandoned house on the outskirts of town, unaware of what drives her. Once there, she witnesses something that could be nothing more than a wishful imagining — her boyfriend, very much alive, surrounded by the students who have died as well as several strangers. He looks the same, but is this the boy she loves, or someone else? It’s a mystery that slowly unravels as she returns again, then again. Teeter-tottering on the brink of insanity, with the “wings” droning out her rational thought, she wants to believe. But is it truly Phoenix? Is it possible that he has returned?
I have never been one to give away too much of a story in a review, so I will refrain from doing so now. However, I can state that when Darina learns the truth about the Beautiful Dead, the story comes to life. Phoenix is only one of many who seek assistance in eternal rest, and it makes for an extremely dramatic and thought provoking story. All of the characters are fascinating, including Jonas (who this installment is centered around). He’s a young man who left behind a bereaved father and a grieving girlfriend. It’s heartbreaking at times, yet, heartwarming at others. How can you say goodbye when you never wanted to go in the first place? In what way can you convey your anger, devastation, and sense of loss? After all, those who have lost a loved one are not the only ones to suffer — so are the ones who have died.
Yet, even then, it is the love story between Darina and Phoenix that is the driving force that lures you back to the pages. Killed in a senseless brawl, Phoenix loves Darina, just as she loves him. That’s the ultimate tragedy of the story (and the series). Even as she assists the Beautiful Dead in finding peace, thereby ensuring she can remain close to Phoenix, the clock never stops ticking. A reader can’t help but be aware of that as they delve into the story. No matter what Darina does, no matter who she helps, Phoenix will eventually cross over. The gravity of the situation ensures a somber tone remains, so that even as your rejoice for the peace of one, you feel the noose going taut around the neck of another.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and finished it within a couple of hours. The premise, characters, and the circumstances Darina and Phoenix find themselves in proved impossible to resist. To be sure, it’s dark, but that’s the beauty of the material. This isn’t your average YA tale, which makes me appreciate it all the more.
If you’re looking for something that stands apart from the rest, don’t miss The Beautiful Dead: Book One — Jonas. I’ve recently acquired the second story and can’t wait to learn what happens next.
Jaime AKA J.A. Saare