Cover image for The afterlife
The afterlife
Soto, Gary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, [2003]

Physical Description:
161 pages ; 22 cm
A senior at East Fresno High School lives on as a ghost after his brutal murder in the restroom of a club where he had gone to dance.
Reading Level:
810 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.2 5.0 71140.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.1 10 Quiz: 33866 Guided reading level: NR.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



You'd think a knife in the ribs would be the end of things, but for Chuy, that's when his life at last gets interesting. He finally sees that people love him, faces the consequences of his actions, finds in himself compassion and bravery . . . and even stumbles on what may be true love.
A funny, touching, and wholly original story by one of the finest authors writing for young readers today.

Author Notes

Gary Soto was born April 12, 1952, and raised in Fresno California. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended Fresno City College, graduating in 1974 with an English degree. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including The Nation, Plouqhshares, The Iowa Review, Ontario Review and Poetry, which has honored him with the Bess Hokin Prize and the Levinson Award and by featuring him in Poets in Person. He is one of the youngest poets to appear in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Soto has received the Discovery-The Nation Prize, the U.S. Award of the International Poetry Forum, The California Library Association's John and Patricia Beatty Award twice, a Recogniton of Merit from the Claremont Graduate School for Baseball in April, the Silver Medal from The Commonwealth Club of California, and the Tomás Rivera Prize, in addition to fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts twice, and the California Arts Council.

For ITVS, he produced the film The Pool Party, which received the 1993 Andrew Carnegie Medal. Soto wrote the libretto for an opera titled Nerd-landia for the The Los Angeles Opera. In 1999 he received the Literature Award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Author-Illustrator Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, and the PEN Center West Book Award for Petty Crimes. He serves as Young People's Ambassador for the California Rural Legal Assistance and the United Farm Workers of America.

Soto is the author of ten poetry collections for adults, with New and Selected Poems a 1995 finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Award. His recollections Living Up the Street received a Before Columbus Foundation 1985 American Book Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-10. Combing his hair in the dirty bathroom of a club where a dance is being held, 17-year-old Chuy makes the mistake of telling the rodent-faced guy next to him that he likes his shoes. The young man returns the compliment by stabbing Chuy to death. Where any other story would end, Soto's begins. It follows Chuy for several days after his death, as the teenager recounts what he sees and experiences. His parents grieve, and his mother asks a cousin to kill Chuy's assailant; then he goes to his high school's basketball game and sees the effect his death has had on his friends, realizing their sadness will be fleeting. He saves the life of a homeless man, albeit only temporarily, and improbably, he finds his first girlfriend, Crystal, a specter who died from an overdose. Crystal's character is not as well developed as Chuy's, but their relationship is beautifully evoked, with Chuy grasping every thread of love he can as he slowly disappears. Soto has remade Our Town into Fresno, California, and he not only paints the scenery brilliantly but also captures the pain that follows an early death. In many ways, this is as much a story about a hardscrabble place as it is about a boy who is murdered. Both pulse with life and will stay in memory. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Returning to the Mexican-American community which he has made a career of chronicling, Soto (Baseball in April) pens a sort of Lovely Bones for the young adult set: 17-year-old narrator Chuy is murdered on page two, for no good reason, in the restroom of a nightclub. Chuy's ghost roams his native Fresno, visiting Angel ("mi carnal, the guy I hung with") his would-be novia (girlfriend), his family, his school friends. In several compelling sequences, he comes face-to-face with his killer, and is shocked to see that the boy is completely without remorse. There is mention of revenge (Chuy's mother gives his cousin a gun), but Soto keeps that subplot brief, favoring instead a more thoughtful painting of what Chuy's departure means to those around him. Chuy also meets the ghost of a girl who has just committed suicide, and the two spirits begin to fall in love. In addition to this romance, Soto concocts an ingenious way of introducing tension to the story: Chuy's astral body is disappearing bit by bit, and as the tale ends, so too does the audience's knowledge of Chuy's ultimate destiny. While the premise could sound dark and morose, the novel is instead filled with hope and elegance. The author counterbalances difficult ideas with moments of genuine tenderness as well as a provocative lesson about the importance of savoring every moment-a lesson that Chuy, once fretful and insecure, comes to understand. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-Soto's twist on the emerging subgenre of narratives in the vein of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones (Little, Brown, 2002) offers a compelling character in the person of 17-year-old Chuy, murdered in the men's room of a dance hall the evening he plans to connect with the girl of his heart's desire. Unfortunately for both Chuy and readers, what happens after death is that the teen's once engaged and engaging spirit seems to dissipate along with his "ghost body." He floats around Fresno, CA, making seemingly random sightings of his murderer, local kids, and-only after a couple of days and at a time when his ghost body is beginning to dissolve limb by limb-other ghosts. He finds a new heartthrob in the form of a teen who has committed suicide and is befriended by the wise ghost of a transient whose life he tried to save. Grieving friends and family unknowingly are visited by Chuy, and he is startled to discover that his mother wants violent revenge for his death. This plethora of plot lines wafts across and past the landscape of a narrative as lacking in developed form as Chuy finds himself becoming. After a strong start, The Afterlife seems to become a series of brief images that drift off as though in a dream. Soto's simple and poetic language, leavened with Mexican Spanish with such care to context that the appended glossary is scarcely needed, is clear, but Chuy's ultimate destiny isn't.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



WHEN YOU'RE an ordinary-looking guy, even feo, you got to suck it up and do your best. You got to shower, smell clean, and brush your teeth until the gums hurt. You got to dress nice and be Seor GQ. You got to have a little something in your wallet. You got to think, I'll wow the chicas with talk so funny that they'll remember me. This was my lover-boy strategy as I stood in the restroom of Club Estrella combing my hair in the mirror over the sink. I was going to meet Rachel at the dance-Rachel, the girl in the back row in English, the one whose gum-snapping chatter made Mrs. Mitchell's brow furrow. I shook water from my comb and plucked the teeth like a harp. I brought the comb back into my hair again. I had to get it right.It was from happiness, I guess, that I turned to the guy next to me. I said I liked his shoes. They were yellow and really strange to a dude like me who clopped about in imitation Nikes but on that night was wearing a pair of black shoes from Payless. I looked back at the mirror and noticed a telephone number carved with a key in the corner-265-3519. I let my mind play: I could call that number. I could say, "Your number's on the mirror, girlie." I pictured someone like Rachel answering and roaring a frosty, "So!" Then she would be cool, come on strong, and ask, "What's your name, tiger? What's your school? What kind of ride you got?"Ride? I had a bicycle with a bent rim and a skateboard from junior high somewhere in the garage. But a ride? It was Payless shoes made of plastic. Shoes I was going to toss in the closet once the night was over.But the private world inside my head disappeared quickly. The guy next to me, the one with the yellow shoes, worked an arm around my throat, snakelike, and with his free hand plunged a knife into my chest. He stuck me just left of my heart, right where I kept an unopened pack of Juicy Fruit gum-I had intended to sweeten my breath later when I got Rachel alone. I groaned, "No way," and touched that package of gum as I turned and staggered. He lunged and stuck me a second time, just above my belly button-blood the color of pomegranate juice spread across my shirt. I thought, This is not me, and leaned against a sink, grimacing because that one hurt. My legs buckled as I turned and straightened when he stuck me in my lower back. I cried, "How come?" I saw myself in the mirror, my breath on the glass, a vapor that would disappear. I breathed on the surface and saw, in the reflection, the guy stepping away and looking at the ground as if he had dropped a quarter. Then, chin out, he stepped toward me, pulled out the shirttail from the back of my pants, and wiped his blade."What did you say to me, cabrn?" he breathed in my ear. He smelled of a hamburger layered with onions.My answer was on the glass. It was a blot of my breath, a blot of nothing. I couldn't form a word because of how much I hurt.The guy in yellow shoes pushed me away. He put his penknife into his shirt pocket like it Excerpted from The Afterlife by Gary Soto All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.