Review: You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife edited by Kel McDonald and Andrea Purcell

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cover of You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife

You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife edited by Kel McDonald and Andrea Purcell
Iron Circus Comics (March 31, 2021)
260 pages, $20 Paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

In her introduction to You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife, Caitlin Dougherty compares the anthology to a medieval memento mori. This is a fitting comparison. This book is both a reminder, to the reader, that they will die, but also about the equanimity of death. Everyone will die, and once they’re dead, there’s nothing in this world that they can do about it. This anthology confronts these facts head on, and in a way, helps the reader confront their own deaths as well as the deaths of those they love.

Some of these stories are very scientific. “What Eats Us” by Letty Wilson deals with the various animals and plants that aid in decomposition. “First Law” by M. Cat White deals with the laws of thermodynamics and the transference of energy after death. For readers who do not believe in an afterlife, this is a very solid approach to dealing with death.

Other stories in the anthology take a mythic or folkloric approach. Juliet GMM Lopez deals with a Mexican specter of death in “The Last Wreath.” Ahueonao retells a myth of anceint Mesopotamian in “Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld.” “Bone Ink” by Grace P. Fong and Rhiannon Rasmussen deal with the mythic ideas behind memorials and tattoos. All of these stories not only deal with various cultural interpretations of death, but also encourage readers to enter into death and mourning through non-Western and non-traditional ways.

Other stories deal with loss and grief directly. “Ghost Friend” by Oliver Northwood contemplates a young woman in high school trying to contemplate life by communicating with her dead friend. “Funeral in Foam” by Casey Gilly, Raina Telgemeier, and Jen Hickman deals with the idea of memories and how one processes death through family stories. Many of the stories in this book approach dying from the perspective of those who remain and tell poignant stories from their perspective, encouraging readers to do the same.

Overall, You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife is a really interesting and clever collection of tales. Young Adult and Adult readers alike will be fascinated by the stories in this collection; however, it could also bring comfort to people who are dealing with the death of a loved one or, perhaps, who are dying themselves. This is a very powerful collection that aims right for the heart, and is strongly recommended.

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