Spoilers. All the spoilers.
This book continues following Shari Cooper, although now she and Peter (her dead friend who helped her navigate being dead in the first book) are trying to tell us about the meaning of life. The premise is that Shari is to return to earth as a Wanderer, joining the body of an 18-year-old who ‘dies’ (but doesn’t really – her soul just leaves) so Shari can do some good. It’s almost shocking in its simplicity, as though it were written by a ten-year-old who had somehow gotten his hands on an intro to philosophy book. But I digress.
First, let’s talk about how offensive the basic premise is. Shari, a dead rich white girl, needs to inhabit the body of a Latina from south central L.A. named Jean so Shari can help make the neighborhood better. That is some bizarrely fucked up manifest destiny shit right there. Once Shari is in Jean’s body, she comments on how the neighborhood is sad, and that no one really cares, but that she will help make it better. Like people who are economically disadvantaged are all lazy, drug users, and criminal. Good grief.
Second, during the also bizarrely offensive chapters that deal with Shari and Peter in the afterlife, we get treated to ‘Misunderstanding Eastern Philosophy 101.’ Shari’s teacher is OF COURSE a wise Southeast Asian man. It’s like Eat Pray Love for the dead. And during their sessions, her Master (yup, that’s what she calls him) makes comments about other Wanderers (apparently all folks involved in social change are Wanderers) that veer dangerously close to racism. There’s also an inexplicable knock on the Middle East.
There is one pretty entertaining moment in the book – Jean / Shari write a short story that is actually good. As in, I’d read it and enjoy it on its own. It involves a writer whose muse gets fed up with not getting any of the credit. It was a bit clever and although totally out of place, at least made up for some of the other parts of the book.
I could just stop here, but I’m kind of invested, so let’s see if we can get through the third one without xenophobia, racism, and simple tropes. I don’t have high hopes though…