Review: Dead Rules

Dead Rules by Randy Russell will be released in the U.S. on June 21, 2011 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both formats.

Published by HarperTeen, a division of HarperCollins, the print edition is 384 pages.

Dead Rules is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at

Goodreads description:

Till death

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever.


But Jana’s destiny was fatally flawed. And now she’s in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch.


Michael and Jana were incomplete without each other. There was no room for Mars in Jana’s life—or death—story. Jana was sure Michael would rush to her side soon.


But things aren’t going according to Jana’s plan. So Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true—no matter what rules she has to break.


It was supposed to be Jana and Michael, Webster and Haynes, for always. She wasn’t supposed to die. Their future was all mapped out. They were supposed to be together. Forever.

But if she had to die, then he should be with her. He was Romeo to her Juliet. And without Juliet there was no Romeo. Romeo couldn’t live without Juliet and so he followed her in death.

Michael should not have wanted to exist without her for a single moment. Her death should have meant something.

So where was he?

Jana was forced to ride the bus to Dead School alone. And with each passing moment she was forgetting little details from her life. She didn’t want to forget Michael. Not his face, not his voice, nothing. He was her everything and she was his, but yet she sat here alone.

Death would not separate the two of them. She wouldn’t let it. They would be together. Even if it meant she had to kill him to bring him to her.


Dead Rules is the wildly funny, dark and disturbing, yet light, and at times sweet, debut young adult novel from author Randy Russell. This exceptional story pulls you in from the very first lines and is an extremely fast, incredibly ironic and immensely entertaining read.

The story is told mainly from Jana’s perspective – a girl who met her untimely demise in what appears to be a freak bowling accident – with a few alternate perspectives and peeks at the world of the living throughout.

As awareness slowly dawns on Jana about her new situation and the fact that she is separated from the love of her life, she becomes determined to make sure that she and Michael are reunited.

And if she can’t convince him to join her in death, then she plans on taking matters into her own hands to ensure that the two of them are together, forever.

The author has written an exceedingly creative one-of-a-kind story with Dead Rules. Each character has such a distinct personality, all of whom create such a nice balance in this book. Jana is driven but lovable, Mars is a bad boy seeking redemption, Wyatt is sarcastic but supremely likable, and Arva is the voice of reason and responsibility.

The story moves incredibly quickly, and will keep readers engaged from beginning to end. And even though this story may be centered around a dark subject that is treated with humor, it has an uplifting side, too, showing that redemption is possible, that not everything is hopeless and that being selfless can have positive results.

This is a story not to be missed by readers who love books with a wicked sense of humor, an enormously inventive storyline and a refreshing look at life after death.

I consider this an absolute must read and look forward to much, much more from this author.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=6] Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

On a personal note:

This book is so full of awesome you can’t imagine – that’s why you have to read it like I did, and which I plan on doing again. It’s a completely twisted but utterly fantastic version of what comes after death. And it totally appeals to both my darker side and the side that’s a sucker for a love story.

I adore the way this author’s mind works. The story is the perfect mix of brilliantly funny, slightly gruesome and wonderfully heartwarming.

I fell in love with this story immediately. It seemed like such an easy read, but one that I found had a lot more depth than I initially thought. And the longer I thought about it, the more I discovered, and the more deeply in love I fell.

Jana is my ideal main character. She was completely devoted to the love of her life, Michael. Even when presented with a totally hot alternative she still remained dedicated to the boy she promised her heart to. That made her admirable, even if she wanted to kill him to keep him with her always.

Jana was strong and determined and slightly devious, and she would let nothing stop her from getting what she wanted – and that was Michael – even if it meant getting herself into some pretty outrageous situations.

But she was also an extremely sympathetic and lovable character for a dead girl. She had a lonely life, with a self-centered mother who put her down, and who made her feel less. It’s no wonder she attached herself so strongly to Michael.

I loved the way this story was constructed, slowly revealing pieces of information as the story progressed, from not only Jana’s perspective but other characters in the book, and how it was interspersed with the tales of how several of the characters met their unfortunate ends. Absolutely brilliant.

And those slow reveals kept you riveted and left you wanting more. Plus, those little déjà vu moments each of them had were the perfect touch, giving their stories continuity.

The author’s sense of humor was just so wickedly funny. I am trying not to tell all, but from the opening lines to the chapters, to the subtle and not-so-subtle descriptions and actions of Jana’s fellow classmates, the writing kept me snickering evilly throughout.

One of my favorites had to be when the author mentioned that Pauline was beside herself. Actually, really, every single aspect of Pauline was so totally hysterical and disturbing.

And the irony – initially I thought there were just one or two examples of it in the story, but looking back I see that the author used it several times to great effect. But that end was so completely ironic it makes me grin wickedly every time I think about it.

What else did I love? Everything! From the characters’ names which were unbelievably unique, to keeping the characters’ appearances frozen at the moment of their death, to the different factions at Dead School – the Risers, the Sliders, the Grays, the Virgins, the Stretchers. And although Risers are supposed to have it so much better, being a Slider sounds like way more fun.

What made this story absolutely perfect were those little touches – elements that didn’t have to be there, but just made this story complete – the lawn dart, the hairdos, the croaky voice, the skin color, the body temperatures, the drinking water. They also kept this story from being completely dark, making it feel light and fun.

And finally, after probably revealing every little thing in this book that wasn’t a major plot point, I loved that the Risers smelled of Ivory soap – 99.44% pure, so not quite at the status of the Virgins, but still headed in the right direction.

I probably should have saved most of this rambling for a Book Buzz post, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I could continue to go on and on about this book which made me smile right up to the end. I will definitely be re-reading Dead Rules and I wish that it was a series – I have no idea if it will be one – because Dead School has been a great place to visit and I really want to know more about Jana and that super hot Mars Dreamcote.

Book trailers for Dead Rules:

Dead Rule #1

Dead Rule #2

Dead Rule #3


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