TL;DR: A fun, fast-paced, funny tween book with an imaginative setting and world. Great mix of romance, adventure, and true-to-life tween experiences. I’m looking forward to the next book.
The longer review:
On the Bright Side is set half in this word and half in an imaginatively-constructed ‘heaven’ where newly dead serve as guardian angels for the living. Gabby, flustered by an almost-kiss with her crush (Michael) and a crushing text from her frenemy (Angela), gets hit by a car. She goes to heaven (Cirrus) where she becomes a guardian-angel in training. She, as bad luck would have it, is assigned to guard Angela, who also has a crush on Michael. There is also a supernatural/adventure plot thread that I don’t want to give away but that gives this book broader appeal than just to tween girls.
I really loved the character of Gabby. I could relate to her struggles to do the right thing. I remember making bad decisions as a tween and then feeling that every bad decision spiraled into another one until I wasn’t sure how to extricate myself from the mess I had made. Unfortunately the grownups around me weren’t quite as understanding as Lawrence and Nephele. And I could have really used a friend like Jessica.
– The depiction of Heaven(Cirrus) is fantastic. I love the technology-rich world Shelli created. One of the hallmarks (for me) of a well constructed world is that I find myself thinking about parts of the world as if that world was real. The other day I found myself thinking about what it would be like to have a SKYfone…
– Great tween voices and characters. Jessica and especially Gabby feel real — they are multidimensional characters with unique quirks, desires, and interactions.
– OTBS featured fencing. How can you not love a book where the protagonist fences?!
There were a few cons that kept this book from being a 5.
– The punny devices and places got a little too much at times. (iPhone/SKYfone, internet/INNERnet, iTunes/SKYtunes, IM/SKYm, Levitator, etc). Sometimes too many of those references on one page drew too much attention to the world distracting me from enjoying the story.
– Michael was a little too one-dimensional. He needed more flaws to feel real.
– Angela, while believable, was a little too cliche.
** I received an advanced review copy of On the Bright Side. I am grateful for the opportunity to read the ARC, but receiving it did not influence my review. **