ABOUT THE BOOK
Kai was seventeen when he died saving Avery’s life, though he didn’t really have much to live for. After spending half his life being shipped around to different families, the only place he felt at home was on a street corner with his guitar. Now, it’s been six months since his death. Six months adapting to a new kind of existence where instead of making music, he uses his new healing powers to save lives. But in his off hours, he watches helplessly as Avery’s life is unraveled by his death.
Avery doesn’t know that it was Kai who saved her life in the ocean, because her rescuer’s body was never found. Wracked with guilt, the ocean she once loved is now her tormentor. As her surfboards collect dust in the garage, the weight of her grief destroys her relationships and stretches her to a breaking point.
Always willing to break rules for those he loves, Kai steals a ring that temporarily gives his body substance. With limited time, he does all he can to restore her life to the way it was before his tragic death, but Kai’s half-baked plans rarely turn out the way he thinks they will.
Praise for the Book:
“Vividly imagined, this novel is the perfect mix of modern love story and literary fiction. One brimming with genuine emotion that had me re-reading passages simply because they were too beautifully written to experience just once.” --Julie N. Ford, author of With No Regrets
“This book is not only an engaging and satisfying supernatural romance, but also a beautiful story about life, death, and the gray places in between.” --E.B. Wheeler, author of The Haunting of Springett Hall
"This is one of those stories that stays with you long after the closing scene. It was beautifully imagined and vividly written and I absolutely loved it!” --Teresa Richards, author of Emerald Bound
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Beard is the author of YA novels Porcelain Keys and Beyond the Rising Tide. She earned a degree in communications from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MFA in writing from VCFA. When she's not writing, she referees wrestling matches between her three boys and listens to audiobooks while folding self-replicating piles of laundry. She is a breast cancer survivor, a baker of sweets, a seeker of good love stories, a composer of melancholy music, and a traveler who wishes her travel budget was much bigger. She lives with her husband and children in the shadow of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains.
After reading Sarah Beard's previous book, Porcelain Keys, I suspected that this book would be just as good. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I was rather intrigued by the premise, a young man breaking 'afterlife' rules to help the young woman whose life he died to save. Beard does such an amazing job of creating characters and situations that are chock full of emotional intensity. I fell in love with Kai and Avery immediately. Kai, who finds himself helping to heal people in the afterlife, but unable to help Avery as she struggles with his death, not even knowing who he was. And Avery who has an enormous case of survivor's guilt that keeps her away from the ocean she loves because of the horrible memories she now associates with it. And unfortunately for Avery, her friends are rather clueless. Her friend Paige, tells her to just go back to being herself. And her ex-boyfriend broke up with her because he couldn't deal with it anymore, but is willing to get back with her when she's 'fixed'. Talk about fair weather friends. So Kai decides to break some rules to try to help her come to terms with his death. Falling in love wasn't really in the plans, but happens nonetheless. Beard has created a fascinating, beautifully told tale of love and healing, and finding one's way through the heartbreaks of life with the help of those who really love you, through the bad times, and not just the good times. A tender romance with a fascinating premise that I can wholeheartedly recommend for those who enjoy a great story.
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EXCERPT 1 (Avery's point-of-view):
My mind retraces the past few months, all the conversations Tyler and I have had, the words we’ve said and haven’t said, all stemming from one incident, one day. And then I’m thrown back to that afternoon, back into the ocean and the cold, roiling waves. I feel them around me, tossing me this way and that, pounding over my head like a stampede of wild horses. I feel the salt stinging my eyes and see the abyss below me in the moment I dove under to find the boy. I saw him there, motionless and suspended in the deep, just out of reach.
Just out of reach.
My face feels hot, and I can’t breathe. But I keep my panic cloaked beneath my skin. A violent earthquake rattles my insides, but I tense my muscles, holding it in, restraining it, refusing to let it show. I dig my nails into my arm, anchoring them there, anchoring me into stillness, and I focus all my attention on the present physical pain in my arm.
Kai’s hand reaches for mine. His touch stills my insides, draws out the tremors as though they’re water and he’s a sponge.
EXCERPT 2: (Kai’s point of view)
I’m not sure if I have a heart, but something in my ribcage swells at the sight of Avery. Her hair shimmers like spun gold in the sunlight, falling over her shoulder and hiding her face. She’s sitting on a sheet of black rock, head bent, and the flowery skirt of her sundress ripples in the breeze.
If she turns around, she’ll see me. If I speak, she’ll hear my voice. I open my mouth to do that, but it’s parched, hit with an unexpected drought of words.
I’ve been walking for hours, and I still don’t have a solid plan. I have an end goal, but it’s like looking up at the peak of a mountain when I’m still in the valley. I want Avery to find happiness again, but I have no idea how to get her there.
Luckily, improvising is what I’m best at. Writing songs on the fly, talking myself out of trouble, and ad-libbing life in general. When I had a life, I was dropped into a new environment every few months with no time for planning. Survival depended on my ability to improvise, because it was the only way to keep my head above water.
As I inch toward Avery, I turn phrases over in my mind, trying to choose the best way to introduce myself. I hate to think how she’ll react if she recognizes me, but I doubt she will. I saw her run across my picture on a missing persons report once, and she scanned right past it. Besides, I saw my reflection in the shop window this morning, and although my face is the same, I don’t exactly look like myself with my new Jack Frost hair.
Over her shoulder, I see she’s holding a fishing net in her lap. Her fingers are working with it like she’s trying to free something. A crab. Her hands tremble as she tries to unravel it, so she’s not really getting anywhere.
Without thinking, I fish the pocketknife from my shorts, unfold the blade, and lower it in front of her in offering. She flinches and whips around to look at me, eyes wide.
So much for improvising.
I nod toward the tangled mess in her lap. “For the crab.” Yes. Those are the words I’ve waited six months to speak to her. If Charles comes in the next moment to take back his ring, at least I can live in eternal peace knowing I was able to utter those three words.
Her brows pinch together, then she shakes her head and turns back to the crab. “I’m trying to free him, not eat him.”
For a few breaths, I’m speechless. In awe that she just talked to me. She can see me. And hear me. If I reach out and touch her shoulder, she’ll feel my fingertips on her skin. I don’t, of course. I’ve scared her enough for one day.
“I know,” I say, trying to keep my voice soft and non-threatening. I crouch down and offer the knife again, this time handle first. “It’s for the net.”
Her hands go still, and then she smiles sheepishly. “Oh. Right.”
She takes the knife and goes to work, biting her lower lip as she concentrates on plucking away strands of netting. I wonder why she’s going to so much trouble to free a half-dead crab, but I say nothing because for some reason it seems really important to her.
The knife makes her task easier, but when the crab is free, she frowns at the water, swallowing hard. Seeing the reluctance in her face, I stand and open my hand. “Here. I’ll throw it in.”
She deposits the crab in my palm, and I carry the newly liberated creature to where the waves are pitching against the rock. I toss it back home, and it disappears beneath the marbled surface.
When I turn back, Avery is standing with her arms twined around her waist. As I stroll toward her, the wind kicks up and sends golden strands of hair flying around her. With the way she’s standing there on the rocks, she looks like some kind of mythical siren. I feel just as scared as if she were one, just as bewitched. The haunting song in her eyes lures me in until I’m standing right in front of her. She gazes up at me a long moment, searching my face as if she’s hunting for familiarity. For a minute I worry she recognizes me. But then she folds the knife and hands it back.