August 11, 2021 7:36 AM EDT

After 15-year-old Liz Hall is killed in a hit and run, she enters a strange and mysterious pseudo-extension of her world called Elsewhere. There, Liz learns she will age in reverse until she becomes an infant and is catapulted back to earth to be reborn. The details of this afterlife are fascinating and rich, from the sleek cruise ship that drops Liz off in her new reality to the people who populate it, including the grandmother she never met. Though rooted in death, Gabrielle Zevin’s 2005 novel is full of light, and more focused on the inner-workings of Elsewhere than on the tragedies that brought the characters there. But the moments when Liz considers her life and those she cared for, particularly the ones still alive on earth, remind readers of the emotional gravity of the protagonist’s plight. As Zevin reveals the rules of this world, she simultaneously underlines the pain of sudden loss and trauma. It’s an ambitious premise that works thanks to Zevin’s diligent world-building and her characterization of the contemplative Liz as she grapples with huge questions about humanity, purpose and love. —Annabel Gutterman

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