Review: On the Bright Side by S.R. Johannes

Published by Coleman & Stott
Paperback release in February 2012, e-book January 31, 2012
Where I got it: E-galley received from author

Gabby is a disgruntled tween angel who has just been assigned to protect her school nemesis and ex-beffie. Problem is her ex-beffie is dating Gabby’s longtime crush. Instead of protecting Angela, Gabby pranks her (since when is sticking toilet paper to her shoe or spinach in her teeth a sin?) Soon, Gabby gets out of control and is put on probation by her SKYAgent, who has anger management issues of his own. Determined to right her wrongs, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to Earth for just one day. Without knowing, she kicks off a series of events and learns what can happen when you hate someone to death.

On the Bright Side is a lighthearted romp through what the afterlife might be like if you were a teenage girl sent back as a guardian angel for your frenemy. It was a nice change of pace to read a book written for a younger teen audience. There’s no real angst here, other than the lost opportunity to tell your crush how you feel about him, and the knowledge that your family is sad about your death. Death is treated like an opportunity in this book: a place for Gabby to do her growing up. Yes, this is a coming-of-age novel with a dead main character. And yes, it does work.

Gabby’s a force unto herself. She acts out a bit when she is assigned to Angela, the girl whose text caused Gabby to walk in front of a car, and who started dating Gabby’s crush after Gabby’s death. Even though she’s supposed to protect Angela and guide her into becoming a better person, Gabby can’t resist the temptation to do pranks over and over again. Then, Gabby becomes even more daring and ignores the rules, putting Cirrus at risk. I got frustrated with Gabby’s character, until I looked back and noticed that I had friends who acted just like her in high school. Just because she doesn’t behave the way I would doesn’t mean that she isn’t authentic. I could relate more to Gabby’s best friend Jessica: a voice of reason who will back up her friend, but also sees how much trouble she’s stirring up.

There is plenty of humor here, and no adult content, making this a great pick for a reluctant reader or a younger teen. The issues presented are universal enough that anybody can relate to Gabby’s plight, yet it never gets too heavy. The plot moves along quickly enough that I didn’t get bored, either. If you want a bubbly, wacky take on the afterlife, pick up On the Bright Side.

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4 Responses to Review: On the Bright Side by S.R. Johannes

  1. This one is new to me, but it sounds like a fun read. I think it’s just mean to send an Angel back to protect their frenemy.

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