Not to Be Missed

Menomonie writer melds afterlife fantasy, YA lit

Emily Kuhn, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THAT’S (AFTER) LIFE. Menomonie’s Michelle Reed has published the first two novels in her young adult trilogy.
THAT’S (AFTER) LIFE. Menomonie’s Michelle Reed has published the first two novels in her young adult trilogy.

Menomonie resident Michelle Reed got the idea for her first book when she and her husband were en route to a screenwriter’s conference in Los Angeles in 2006. She had been listening to “Leave” by Barenaked Ladies, which lead singer Ed Robertson wrote after his brother died in a motorcycle accident. The lyrics describe the haunting presence of Robertson’s brother, and as Reed listened, she was struck by the concept of the afterlife as a place from which the deceased could either move on from or remain stuck in until they worked out their issues. This is the very situation in which 17-year-old Dez Donnelly, Reed’s main character in Life, A.D.: Life. After. Dez. finds herself after dying in a car accident mere weeks before her high school graduation.

“I hope that young girls find strength in Dez. She’s strong, she’s a fighter, she’s bright, she’s all the things that I hope girls can look up to.” – author Michelle E. Reed, on the teen heroine of her novels

Part sci-fi fantasy and part YA (or Young Adult) novel, Life, A.D. is the first of a trilogy Reed wrote that follows Dez from her life as a high school senior full of graduation plans and college dreams to an afterlife that won’t let her move on until she accepts the fact that her life has ended, something she simply isn’t ready to do. Published in December 2013, this book focuses on Dez’s inability to accept her fate and struggle to come to terms with what’s happened to her. Readers also discover along with Dez that even in the afterlife there are ways to get into trouble, like visiting the nearby Atman City, which is off-limits to teen souls. Dez’s difficulty coping with these sudden changes is one of the many characteristics Reed hopes teen readers can relate to.

“When it comes down to it, Dez is smart and strong, but she’s still a teenager – she’s afraid of being dead, being away from her family and friends, etc.,” Reed said. “She’s got all the same hopes and dreams and fears as any other teen.”

The second of Reed’s Atman City trilogy was published last December. In M.I.A.: Missing in Atman, Dez is more accepting of her circumstances but is still coming to grips with what’s happened, and the temptation of the still-forbidden Atman City proves too strong to resist. Add a romance with a fellow lost soul, ancient demons, and the discovery of a secret regarding her past life, and Dez finds herself again confronting a situation similar to teens and adults alike: one that we cannot control.

“We can all relate to being in a situation where we can’t control what’s going on around us, but we can control how we react to what’s around us,” Reed said. “That’s a common occurrence for kids who, like Dez, make mistakes – not listening when they should, choosing the wrong path. But it’s how we deal with it and move on that counts.”

Reed is currently working on the final book of the trilogy. Although no release date is set, Reed says she’s looking forward to providing readers with closure about Dez and her role in the afterlife while maintaining the characteristics that make Dez a role model for young adult readers. “I hope that young girls find strength in Dez,” Reed said. “She’s strong, she’s a fighter, she’s bright, she’s all the things that I hope girls can look up to.”

M.I.A.: Missing in Atman is available at Bookends on Main in Menomonie and at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Learn more at www.facebook.com/AuthorMichelleEReed.

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