Jo-Jo’s life is pretty crappy. He lives in a poor section of Baltimore with his slightly older sister and her baby. His mom is dead and his dad flip-flops between spending time in jail and spending time passed out after a long night at the bar. Jo-Jo has no real ambition, sees no point in school or anything like that since he figures he’s just going to end up following the same path as the rest of his family. The one bright spot in Jo-Jo’s life was his girlfriend Violet. Jo-Jo got a lot of crap at school for dating Violet because she was black and he’s white. No one every bothered Violet about their relationship until the day White Knife Johnson murdered her. With Violet gone, Jo-Jo figures he doesn’t have anything else to live for. He takes a gun and goes down by the stream near his house. Things don’t go quite as planned, though. When he gets to the stream he finds someone has beaten him to the punch; there’s a naked dead girl floating in the water. Jo-Jo can’t stand the sight of that girl in the water so he wades in to pull her out and gets the shock of his life. She revives and she’s black and white and she says she’s from the Afterlife. Turns out her name is Max and she and her band-mates have come back to life for awhile to try out new material since they’re too huge in the Afterlife to get an honest opinion. Jo-Jo puts off killing himself to help out Max and the rest of the guys from the band the Fiendish Lot but it seems it’s Jo-Jo’s time. After an altercation, Jo-Jo finds himself in the Afterlife, following the Fiendish Lot as they go on tour. In Jo-Jo’s death he has a second chance to live but he must learn who he is, what’s important, and his true purpose if he’s going to survive his death.
Reaction: Truly unique. In that respect it reminded me of The Order of Odd-Fish. I loved the concept of the Afterlife. The idea was detailed and well thought-out. In the Afterlife, there is no color, energy comes from burning items brought over from life as people cross over, you never need to eat or sleep or drink, but you have a sol. Your sol burns brightly if you are fulfilling it and dims leaving you ghostly translucent if you aren’t. People who have fulfilled their sols in the Afterlife burn so brightly until they burn up, not in a hurting kind of burn but in an awe-inspiring kind of burn, onto the next stage of death. People who are unfulfilled fade into the mists that surround the edges of the Afterlife until they are nothing. I really liked the thought that you have a second chance if you left your life unfulfilled and I liked the concept that your fulfillment was something that was measured in a tangible way but the light your sol emits. One of my other favorite parts of the book were the footnotes of how people Jo-Jo encountered in the Afterlife died. For example: John Gray, 1980-2004: crushed by falling church bells during freak blizzard (149) or Elvira Custer, 1966-1996: murdered by distant relatives after winning the lottery.
Despite how much I enjoyed Jo-Jo and the Fiendish Lot, it has some flaws. First of all, it’s really long. Second, I didn’t necessarily buy Jo-Jo’s transformation even after 473 pages. Jo-Jo spends most of his Afterlife determined to find Violet. Every time I think he’s having a breakthrough about what he’s really supposed to be doing with his Afterlife he takes two steps back and returns to his old ways. He waffles like this through most of the book so his ability to let go in the end seems abrupt to me. In the end, the good far outweighs the flaws. I enjoyed Auseon’s sense of humor and creative mind.