Next by Keith Gray

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Next by Keith Gray

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: After the success of Losing It, Keith Gray gets together with more leading writers for teens to create a volume of short stories about life after death. This slim volume offers romanticism, dark humour, religion, grief, nostalgia and comfort. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Andersen
ISBN: 1849393001

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That Keith Gray hangs out with all the cool people, you know. Hot on the heels of one fabulous anthology of short stories all about virginity, Losing It, comes Next. The topic this time is life after death and it's another preoccupation for young people. What's next? What will it be like? How will those left behind manage and cope? Each of the cool people contributes an idea of what death may bring.

Julia Bertagna gives us bereavement and young love. It's sad and intensely romantic and somehow manages to be comforting also. Jonathan Stroud has a naughty, dark and funny dig at both organised religion and at the notion anything, even life after death, can be bought and sold. Philip Ardagh thinks that heaven is full of the things we love, even if they are precocious youngers sisters and an entire panoply of Muppets (Jim Henson's creations, not idiots). Frank Cottrell Boyce imagines the afterlife on Facebook!

Gillian Philip contributes a chilling story - very dark, but wise about finding grace by letting go. Malorie Blackman, with a trademark boldness, gives us a truly unsympathetic character. Will she get her just desserts? Sally Nicholls talks about the intransigence of Catholicism and the cruel effects of suicide on those left behind as she describes the process of grief. And Keith Gray pulls it altogether with a gorgeous story in which a dead boy lives on through the memories of his friends.

I can't pick a favourite. I just can't. (But I did love the Muppets. And Claudia, the little sister. And immortal Facebook statuses. And Barker the slobbery dog). It's quite nasty, thinking about death. But thinking about actually being dead is slightly different. And we can't help but think about it. These stories offer sadness, fear, anger, humour, hope and love. And they're not nasty to read it all. In fact, they're rather lovely.

If you enjoy the Tardis-like nature of short stories - we do! - then some of our favourite collections are The Kissing Game by Aidan Chambers, Counting Stars by David Almond and Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan.

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Nigethan Sathiyalingam said:

This volume sounds really enticing. Some of my favourite authors in there: Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus is a legend!)

In my opinion, there's no better way to deal with a fear of death than to think about it with an open mind. It's much less intimidating when these thoughts are packaged in a good story, and this volume promises a great range of different styles. I'm especially looking forward to Keith Gray's story, because living on through memories sounds like such a great idea!