Title: Ascenders ~ High School for the Recently Departed
Author: C.L. Gaber
Series: Ascenders #1
Release Date: April 20th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Walker Callaghan doesn’t know what happened to her. One minute she was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago…and the next minute, she was in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no rules, and no consequences.
Walker Callaghan, 17, is dead.
She doesn’t go to heaven or hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were the morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.
These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. “There are even cheerleaders in death,” Walker observes. It’s not a coincidence that the music teacher is a guy named Kurt who “used to have this band.” The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie.
Principal King explains the rules — there are none. Why? You can’t die twice.
There is no homework.
You’re just there to learn because the human brain isn’t fully formed until you’re 24.
By the way, you can’t get hurt physically, so race your Harley off that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do …because no one knows how long you’ll stay in this realm or what’s next.
“Losing someone you love would be like dying twice,” Walker says.
* * * * * *
Walker Callaghan has just arrived at the Academy after a tragic car accident. “Is this heaven or is this high school?” she asks.
She finds out her new life is a bit of both as she falls in love with tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the only sacred rule of this place. He’s looking for a portal to return back to the living realm.
He needs just one hour to retrieve his younger brother who strangely never arrived at The Academy. Bobby is an Earth Bound Spirit, stuck at a plane crash site that took both of their lives as their rich father piloted his private jet nose-first into a cornfield on Christmas Eve.
Walker loves Daniel and risks it all to go with him.
Have they learned enough to outsmart dangerous forces while transporting a young child with them? Can their love survive the fragmented evil parts of themselves that are now hunting them down as they try to find a way back to the middle?
At the Academy, you learn the lessons of an after-lifetime.
When I start a book and my kindle tells me that, at my current reading speed, I have 4 and a half hours left, I feel a little disheartened. I also wasn’t convinced that Ascenders was the story I wanted to spend that amount of time on. Yet thankfully I persevered and became captivated by Walker’s struggle with life after death and desire for breaking rules.
C.L. Gaber ensures that the reader is made aware of Walker’s tragic demise before she discovers it herself. By doing this I think we become more emotionally involved, dealing with our own shock, then Walker’s disbelief and sadness.
The Academy is in neither heaven or hell, but what is called the “midst”; the place which gives teenagers time to develop before they move on. Generally, those at the Academy move “Up”, whilst those held at the Institute for Troubled Teens – the murderers, bullies, and perpetrators of other cruel crimes – go “Below”. When Daniel and Walker visit ITT C.L. Gaber successfully alters the mood of her story so that we feel the fear and dread which surrounds the building, its inmates, and the GF.
Although I felt that Daniel and Walker’s relationship fulfills the ‘romance’ criteria of the YA genre, C.L. Gaber does not make it feel forced, especially as the whole Reid family become such an important part of Walker’s existence.
One of the aspects I really loved about Ascenders was the author’s inclusion of deceased celebrities. This becomes such a joy for the reader that we wonder who will appear next! Music theory 101 is taught by Kurt Cobain; fruit appreciation class by a Steve who “used to work at a company named after fruit”, and Walker’s acting class is led by the very wonderful Heath Ledger.
The death stories of characters are scattered throughout Ascenders and these really add to our connection to the respective individuals.
Ascenders is a story that surprised me with its cleverness and originality and I would definitely recommend it!
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