Madison Avery has just recently moved to town and has been finding it difficult to figure out where she fits in at school. After discovering that her prom date only asked her out because their fathers engineered it, the celebration is turning into a major bust until a hot guy she's never seen before asks her to dance. Then everything appears to be looking much rosier. But when he offers to drive her home and instead drives them right off a literal cliff, she awakens in a morgue dead. Unwilling to accept her fate, especially when she finds out that her death might have been a mistake, Madison swipes a magical amulet from the guy she was with, who it turns out is a reaper. The gem allows her to take on corporeal form and at least temporarily inhabit the space between the living and the dead, but she has no idea why the reaper is trying to steal both her body and her soul.
"Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper" is a YA urban fantasy novelette told in heroine, Madison's first-person POV. Her parents are divorced and her mom sent her to live with her dad, where she's having trouble fitting in at school. She's not quite cool enough to hang with the popular kids, but she's not geeky enough to appreciate the smart kids. The story begins with her attending prom, which she thinks is a total bust, especially when she finds out that the boy who brought her only did so because their dads set them up. Then she meets a hot guy she's never seen before who immediately piques her interest. After dancing a while and getting some subtle revenge on her date, he offers to take her home, but things take a literal nosedive when he deliberately runs their car into a ravine. Next thing Madison knows, she's waking up in a morgue, only to discover that she's dead, but not quite all the way dead, and for some reason, the hot guy she was with is intent on destroying both her body and her soul. However, she manages to snag an amulet from him that allows her to take on corporeal form, leaving her in a weird limbo state.
This story started off strong with the prom scenes drawing me into Madison's world. However, as soon as she realizes Seth, the hot guy, isn't what he seems and he runs them off the road, things became kind of confusing for me. Madison is suddenly catapulted from the real world into this strange afterlife that IMHO was a little too complex for this short format. There are multiple types of reapers and it seems that Madison may only be dead because of a reaper's mistake. Then she snags the amulet from Seth, which gives her the power to take solid form, but she still isn't really alive. Also, we meet Barnabas who is a white reaper, but he also receives the assignment of being her guardian angel. And then there's a mystery behind why Seth decided to reap Madison's soul and now also wants to steal her body that wasn't even explored. It was just way too much info for my brain to process in such a short space of time, plus none of the questions raised are ever answered. I didn't even realize that this novelette was part of a series until I flipped to the back of the book and found a teaser excerpt for the first full-length Madison Avery story, Once Dead, Twice Shy. "Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper" was OK, but it's really little more than an extended prologue or teaser for the next book rather than a self-contained story with a satisfying ending. It should have whetted my appetite for more, but unfortunately, given my confusion with it, I'm not feeling particularly motivated to continue the series either. "Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper" can be found in the anthology Prom Nights from Hell.
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