cover image After You Died

After You Died

Dea Poirier. Polis, $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-951709-41-9

Seventeen-year-old Asher Flemming, the protagonist of this series launch from Poirier (Next Girl to Die), a nicely written if flawed paranormal thriller, has been in love with his childhood friend, Olivia, since the two were toddlers. One day in 1968, he wakes up in the hospital with no memory of how he got there or what has happened in the preceding month. He’s told that he was found holding a knife covered in Olivia’s blood and lying next to the dead girl. After Asher is arrested, his abusive father, a powerful judge, pays off the district attorney, who agrees to send him to a notoriously violent reform school in the Florida panhandle. The engrossing narrative switches between Asher’s reality and the fantasy world of his increasingly disturbing dreams, until the two realms seem to merge. The ambiguous ending, a series of shifts in perception that leave both Asher and the reader slightly dazed, points to a sequel. Fantasy fans may enjoy delving into Asher’s murky dreams, but those expecting a mystery with a satisfying resolution will be disappointed. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary. (July)