Eddie has lived an uneventful life. Although he traveled a little during his time in the military, his day-to-day routine now revolves around his job at a theme park, and he worries that his entire existence has amounted to nothing.
But one day he sees a little girl about to be crushed by a malfunctioning ride, and as he saves her life, his life is affected as well—Eddie has begun his trip to Heaven.
Along the way he meets five people who show him that his "version" of the past isn't the only one that exists, that his life was so much more than he thought. Through these five people Eddie comes to realize that his life had a purpose.
His journey takes him from his stint in the military to his final days on earth and introduces him to people who've been a part of his life all along, whether he was conscious of them or not. This inspirational tale by Mitch Albom (the best-selling Tuesdays With Morrie) has been translated into more than 30 languages.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (320 pages; HarperCollins, 2008)
As his family is being murdered, a toddler walks out his front door and into the graveyard across the street. What happens after that is nothing short of a miracle.
The young boy is found by Mrs. Owens, a ghost who lives in the graveyard. She and the other ghosts name him Nobody Owens—"Bod," for short—and, led by Silas, who becomes Bod's chief instructor and guardian, teach him the ways of the world and the ways of the dead.
As Bod grows older, he becomes curious of the world beyond the graveyard. He's been hidden away for most of his life because the ghosts want to protect him from the man who killed his family; they call him the Man Jack, and he's still on the hunt for Bod. But after our hero becomes friends with a young girl who often visits the graveyard, he begins to wonder if he could fit into the world beyond the gates.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (496 pages; Delacorte, 2010)
Andi Alpers is on the verge of becoming the next failure in her family. Unable to cope with the death of her younger brother, Truman, she's angry at the world—her parents, most of all—and is almost expelled from Brooklyn Heights' most prestigious private school until her father intervenes.
Meanwhile, more than 200 years ago in France, Alexandrine Paradis dreams of becoming a legend on the stages of Paris, but ends up instead taking on the duties of a nursemaid to a young prince. Even as her dreams fade, however, her love for the young prince grows strong enough that she would do anything to protect him.
Although the two girls will obviously never meet, their lives are destined to become intertwined. Andi is whisked away by her father to Paris to help her get grounded again, and when she finds Alexandrine’s diary in the bottom of a guitar case, the words contained within capture her imagination. She becomes obsessed with finding out this ghost of a girl’s story, and at a party in the catacombs with some of her new French friends a few nights later, Andi inexplicably travels back in time to Alexandrine’s era and now must follow in her footsteps to find out the truth.
The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett (192 pages; Candlewick, 2008)
Maddy has lived her life as vibrantly as possible. Now, in her later years, she finds herself surrounded only by memories, until she finds a young boy in her sitting room. His eyes are smoky in a familiar sort of way. How did he get here, and what is his purpose?
As the boy inquires about Maddy’s past, she takes the reader back to a time when she was young. In her kind and gentle way, she recounts what it was like when she first fell in love—how she would do anything to keep her husband close, and what she would give up in order to make him happy.
Maddy has no regrets about her past. She weaves her story with a fairy-tale feel that keeps the young boy engaged, and as the narrative shifts from past to present, she recalls everything in her life that's made her who she is today. Content with her past, she's ready to move on with her future.
Nevertheless, she can’t help but wonder why this boy has come to visit, and why he seems so familiar. Do they share a common past? Find out in Sonya Hartnett's award-winning novel.