cover image The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried

Shaun David Hutchinson. Simon Pulse, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9857-9

Death isn’t much of a mystery for 17-year-old Dino DeLuca, whose family owns a funeral home. Although he’s a dab hand at preparing bodies for burial, he’d rather be doing anything else, especially now that the newest body waiting for prep is his former best friend, July Cooper, who died of a brain aneurism. Dino regrets that their last words were harsh, but then July comes back to life, or unlife (she has no heartbeat and doesn’t breathe). Together, the teens scramble to find the reason for July’s return while keeping her under wraps, which isn’t easy: she smells of decomposition. Additionally, people all over the world aren’t dying after incidents that should be fatal. Dual narratives and a tight timeline, set over a few days, help to keep the pace brisk. Hutchinson (The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza) has his trademark humor on display, but messages about the necessity of death and letting go feel overly emphasized, while Dino and July never completely emerge into fully rounded characters. Dino’s tentative romance with kind-hearted trans teen Rafi is sweet, but caustic July’s shabby treatment of Dino makes it hard to fathom why their friendship lasted so long. The conceit is arresting, but this mostly surface-level exploration of friendship and grief fails to emotionally connect. Ages 14–up. [em](Feb.) [/em]