Review | The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James ★★★★½

“Are you really going to decide on my fate without me?” a voice said from behind them. Harriet was leaning against the windowsill, arms folded.
Felix broke out in a cold sweat. When had she come in?
“Harriet! Hello!” Rima had gone scarlet with mortification.

I received this e-book from Netgalley. This does not affect my review or opinion. All thoughts are my own and I’m being 100 percent honest. Thank you to Netgalley and Walker Books for providing me this e-book for reviewing purposes.

‘The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker’ is a refreshing and intriguing read about ghosts

I’m in awe. What an amazing book! The plot twist was phenomenal. These characters (or at least most of them) are so fun and honest and a lot of them are LGBTQIA+! The plot is so cool and special. I definitely haven’t read anything like this before.

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“Congratulations, new kid. Welcome to the afterlife.”

What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.

Felix, Kasper, Rima, and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.

What an intriguing read. I enjoyed The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker a lot. This book has quite a lot of plot twists that are well executed. I found this novel refreshing since I can’t name a book that is similar to this one. I usually don’t go for stories about ghosts but this one was so entertaining!

The magic system is quite interesting but I don’t really understand it. The reason for this is that it has never been explained. The author comes up with a unique magic system and when a character asks how the magic works the others just shrug and say they have no idea. This is something I know a lot of people dislike, so just putting that out there. It doesn’t bother me that much, because it’s magic you know but I would’ve liked to know more about how some of the things you can do as a ghost, work.

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker has POC and LGBTQIA+ representation. There is a gay, a bi, and a pan character in this book and we love to see it. I could really connect with most of these characters. I hated the main character but understood her actions and the reasoning behind them. The ending was definitely eye-opening and felt very real and I think a lot of people will understand her and what she has been through. I can see that the struggles of these characters are plucked out of real-life experiences and I love that.

The world-building is good. The story is set in an abandoned building and the scenery doesn’t really change. The reason for this is given in the book so I do understand why the author chose to stay in one place, but I still would’ve liked to see different locations.

Lauren James’ writing style is so wonderful. The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker is written in multiple point-of-views which is a plus for this book. I liked reading this book from the point-of-view of these ‘side characters’.

Would I recommend this book?
Definitely. I think this is a very refreshing read. If you’re into ghosts you should definitely check this one out. If you’re not into ghosts you should also check this one out because it’s really good.

Trigger warnings
Ghosts, death
Representation in this book
Bisexual side character, gay side character, Muslim side character
Young adult, paranormal
Publication date
September 3, 2020
Walker Books
About the author
Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including The Loneliest Girl in the Universe and The Quiet at the End of the World. She is also a Creative Writing lecturer, freelance editor and screenwriter.
Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide, been translated into five languages and shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award.
Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. Her upcoming release is The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker.
She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.

Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. The Last Beginning was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent.

Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient.  She has written articles for numerous publications, including the GuardianBuzzfeed, Den of GeekThe Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2021. She teaches creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

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