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    Q&A | May 12, 2015

    Aleksandar Hemon: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Aleksandar Hemon

    Describe your latest book. The Making of Zombie Wars is a roller-coaster ride of violence and sex. The main character, Joshua Levin, is a modestly... Continue »
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      The Making of Zombie Wars

      Aleksandar Hemon 9780374203412

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1 Burnside Children's Young Adult- General

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Elsewhere Cover

ISBN13: 9780374320911
ISBN10: 0374320918
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Elizabeth Hall wakes in a strange bed in a strange room with the strange feeling that her sheets are trying to smother her.

Liz (who is Elizabeth to her teachers; Lizzie at home, except when she's in trouble; and just plain Liz everywhere else in the world) sits up in bed, bumping her head on an unforeseen upper bunk. From above, a voice she does not recognise protests, "Aw hell!"

Liz peers into the top bunk, where a girl she has never seen before is sleeping, or at least trying to. The sleeping girl, near Liz's own age, wears a white nightgown and has long dark hair arranged in a thatch of intricately beaded braids. To Liz, she looks like a queen.

"Excuse me," Liz asks, "but would you happen to know where we are?"

The girl yawns and rubs the sleep out of her eyes. She glances from Liz to the ceiling to the floor to the window and then to Liz again. She touches her braids and sighs. "On a boat," she answers, stifling another yawn.

"What do you mean ‘on a boat'?"

"There's water, lots and lots of it. Just look out the window" she replies before cocooning herself in the bedclothes. "Of course, you might have thought to do that without waking me."

"Sorry," Liz whispers.

Liz looks out the porthole that is parallel to her bed. Sure enough, she sees hundreds of miles of early-morning darkness and ocean in all directions, blanketed by a healthy coating of fog. If she squints, Liz can make out a boardwalk. There she sees the forms of her parents and her little brother, Alvy. Ghostly and becoming smaller by the second, her father is crying and her mother is holding him. Despite the apparent distance, Alvy seems to be looking at Liz and waving. Ten seconds later, the fog swallows her family entirely.

Liz lies back in bed. Even though she feels remarkably awake, she knows she is dreaming, for several reasons: one, there is no earthly way she would be on a boat when she is supposed to be finishing tenth grade; two, if this is a vacation, her parents and Alvy, unfortunately, should be with her; and three, only in dreams can you see things you shouldn't see, like your family or a boardwalk from hundreds of miles away. Just as Liz reaches four, she decides to get out of bed. What a waste, she thinks, to spend one's dreams asleep.

Not wanting to further disturb the sleeping disturb the sleeping girl, Liz tiptoes across the room towards the bureau. The telltale sign that she is, indeed, at sea comes from the furniture: it is bolted to the floor. While she does not find the room unpleasant, Liz thinks it feels lonely and sad, as if many people had passed through it but none had decided to stay.

Liz opens the bureau drawers to see if they are empty. They are: not even a Bible. Although she tries to be very quiet, she loses her grip on the last drawer and it slams shut. This has the unfortunate effect of waking the sleeping girl again.

"People are sleeping here!" the girl yells.

"I'm sorry. I was just checking the drawers. In case you were wondering, they're empty," Liz apologizes. "I like your hair by the way."

The girl fingers her braids. "Thanks."

"What's your name?" Liz asks.

"Thandiwe Washington, but I'm called Thandi."

"I'm Liz."

Thandi yawns. "You sixteen?"

"In August," Liz replies.

"I turned sixteen in January." Thandi looks into Liz's bunk. "Liz," she says, turning the one syllable of Liz's name into a slightly southern two, Li-iz, "you mind if I ask you a personal question?"

"Not really."

"The thing is"-Thandi pauses-"well, are you a skinhead or something?"

"A skinhead? No, of course not." Liz raises a single eyebrow.

"Why would you ask that?"

"Like, ‘cause you don't have hair." Thandi points to Liz's head which is completely bald except for the earliest sprouts of light blond growth. Liz strokes her head with her hand, enjoying the odd smoothness of it. What hair there is feels like the feathers on a newborn chick. She gets out of bed and looks at her reflection in the mirror. Liz sees a slender girl of about sixteen with very pale skin and greenish blue eyes. The girl, indeed, has no hair.

"That's strange," Liz says. In real life, Liz has long, straight blond hair that tangles easily.

"Didn't you know?" Thandi asks.

Liz considers Thandi's question. In the very back of her mind, she recalls lying on a cot in the middle of a blindingly bright room as her father shaved her head. No. Liz remembers that it wasn't her father, because it had been a man near her father's age. Liz definitely remembers crying, and hearing her mother say, "Don't worry Lizzie, it will all grow back." No, that isn't right either. Liz hadn't cried; her mother had been the one crying. For a moment, Liz tries to remember if this episode actually happened. She decides she doesn't want to think about it any longer, so she asks Thandi,

"Do you want to see what else is on the boat?"

"Why not? I'm up now." Thandi climbs down from her bunk.

"I wonder if there's a hat in here somewhere," says Liz. Even in a dream, Liz isn't sure she wants to be the weird bald girl. She opens the closet and looks under the bed: both are as empty as the bureau.

"Don't feel bad about your hair, Liz," Thandi says gently.

"I don't. I just think it's weird," Liz says.

"Hey, I've got weird things, too." Thandi raises her canopy of braids like a theatre curtain. "Ta da," she says, revealing a small but deep, still-red wound at the base of her skull.

Although the wound is less than half a inch in diameter, Liz can tell it must have been the result of an extremely serious injury.

"God, Thandi, I hope that doesn't hurt."

"It did at first; it hurt like hell, but not anymore." Thandi lowers her hair. "I think its getting better actually."

"How did you get that?"

"Don't remember," says Thandi, rubbing the top of her head as if she could stimulate her memory with her hands. "It might have happened a long time ago, but it could have happened yesterday, too, know what I mean?"

Liz nods. Although she doesn't think Thandi makes any sense, Liz sees no point in arguing with the crazy sorts of people one meets in a dream.

"We should go," Liz says.

On the way out, Thandi casts a cursory glance at herself in the mirror. "You think it matters that we're both wearing pj's?" She asks.

Liz looks at Thandi's white nightgown. Liz herself is wearing white men's-style pajamas. "Why would it matter?" Liz asks, thinking it far worse to be bald than underdressed. "Besides, Thandi, what else do you wear while dreaming? Liz places her hand on the doorknob. Someone somewhere once told Liz that she must never, under any circumstances, open a door in a dream. But since Liz can't remember who the person was or why all doors must remain closed, she decides to ignore the advice.

Curtis Jest
Liz and Thandi find themselves in a hallway with hundreds of doors exactly like the one they just closed.

"How do you think we'll find it again?" Thandi asks.

"I doubt I'll have to," Liz answers. "I'll probably wake up before that, don't you think?"

"Well, just in case you don't, our room number's 130002," Thandi says. Liz points to a hand-painted sign at the end of the hallway.


"Hungry?" Thandi asks.

"Starved." Liz is surprised by her own response. She cannot recall being hungry in a dream before.

The most remarkable thing about the ship's dining room is the people; the are all old. A few are her parents' age, but most are even older than them. Gray hair or no hair, brown spots and sagging spots, and sagging skin are the norm. It is by far the largest number of old people Liz has ever seen gathered in one place, even counting visits to her grandmother in Boca. Liz scans the dining room. "Are we in the wrong place?" she asks.

Thandi shrugs. "Beats me, but they're coming this way." Sure enough, three women are making a beeline for Thandi and Liz. They remind Liz of the witches in Macbeth, a play she just finished reading for tenth-grade honours in English.

"Hello, darlings," says a pygmy-like woman with New York accent, "I'm Doris, and this is Myrna, and this is Florence." Standing on her tiptoes, Doris reaches up to pat Liz's moulted head. "Good Lord, would you look how young she is?"

Liz smiles politely but takes a step back so as to discourage further patting.

"How old are you?" Doris the pygmy squints up at Liz. "Twelve"

"I'm fifteen," Liz corrects her. "Almost sixteen. I look older with hair."

The one called Florence pipes up, "What happened to you girls?" She has the scratchy voice of a life-long smoker.

"What do you mean ‘happened'?"Liz demands.

"I was shot in the head, ma'am," Thandi volunteers.

"Speak up, says Myrna who has a fuzzy white caterpillar of a moustache. "My hearing's not so good."


Liz turns to Thandi. "I thought you said you didn't remember how you got the hold in your head."

Thandi apologizes, "I just remembered."

"Shot in the head!" Florence-scratchy-voice says. "Oy, that's rough."

"Aw, it's nothing special. Happens pretty regularly where I'm from," Thandi says.

"WHAT?" asks Myrna with the mustache. "Say it toward my left ear that's the good one."

"I SAID, ‘IT'S NOTHING SPECIAL,'" Thandi yells.

"Maybe we should go to the healing centre?" Florence suggests. "There's one on the Portofino deck. We've already been twice."

Thandi shakes her head. "I think it's healing just fine on its own."

Liz doesn't understand this conversation at all. Her stomach growls loudly.

Hearing Liz's stomach, Doris the pygmy waves her hand toward the buffet line. "You girls go get something to eat. Remember, you gotta get here early to get the good stuff."

For breakfast, Liz selects pancakes and Jell-O. Thandi has sushi, caviar, and baked beans. Liz eyes Thandi's food selections curiously. "That's certainly an interesting combination," Liz says.

"At home, we never get half the things they got on that buffet," says Thandi, "and I'm planning to try all of it before we get there."

"Thandi," Liz asks casually, "where do you think ‘there' is?"

Thandi considers Liz's question for a moment. "We're on a boat," Thandi says, "and boats have to be going somewhere."

The girls secure a table near a bay window, slightly away from the other diners. Liz polishes off her pancakes in record time. She feels as if she hasn't eaten for weeks.

Scraping the bottom of her Jell-O container, Liz looks at Thandi. "So, I've never known anyone who was shot in the head before."

"Can we talk about it after I'm done eating?" Thandi asks.

"Sorry," Liz says, "just making conversation."

© Gabrielle Zevin

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

puddleglum, September 21, 2006 (view all comments by puddleglum)
I guess the success of this book is to present an afterlife where no Creator is revealed, because "He, She, or It" is simply whatever people wanted "He, She, or It" to be before they died. Therefore, there is no personal God at all! To some this might be comforting, but it does not allow for any Further Purpose other than existence as it is known on earth! Plus a couple mentions of sex, hopping into back seats of cars, and one night stands... I guess just typical young adult fare. (Fifteen years of age seems to be the new low-end standard for such things.)

Reincarnation is really what is all about, with the twist you get younger so you forget enough to eventually be born...again! I honestly feel she should be recognized as the founder of a new religion especially aimed at young people.
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Jennifer Bradshaw, August 16, 2006 (view all comments by Jennifer Bradshaw)
I found this book to be a quite intruiging look at the afterlife. Living your life (death) backwards toward your birth is like a facinating take on the mystery of what happens after we die. This book is very original and is enjoyable to read.
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Product Details

Zevin, Gabrielle
HMH Books for Young Readers
Ellis, Ann Dee
Rock, Maya
McGhee, Alison
Arntson, Steven
Family - General
Social Situations - Death & Dying
Social Situations - New Experience
Future life
Situations / New Experience
Social Issues - New Experience
Social Issues - Death & Dying
Situations / Death & Dying
Family/General (see also headings under Social Issues)
Children s Young Adult-Social Issue Fiction-New Experience
Children s Young Adult-Social Issue Fiction
Action & Adventure
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 7
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 12 up to 17

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Related Subjects

Children's » General
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Death and Dying
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » New Experience
Young Adult » General

Elsewhere Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 240 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374320911 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Even readers who have strong views on what happens after death may find themselves intrigued by the fascinating world of 'Elsewhere,' the place 15-year-old Liz ends up after she is killed in a bicycle accident. A surreal atmosphere permeates chapter one as Liz awakens on a ship (mostly occupied by elderly people), unaware of its destination. Her situation gradually comes into focus after she arrives at the island of Elsewhere and is greeted by her grandmother, who died before Liz was born. Liz learns that the aging process works differently in this land of the dead: instead of getting older, humans (and animals) grow younger. When they reach infancy, they are sent down the River to be reborn on Earth. In other ways, Elsewhere resembles the world Liz left behind; residents work at jobs (although here, everyone has a chance to pursue an 'avocation... something a person does to make his or her soul complete'), celebrate holidays and form friendships. Liz also falls in love for the first time, while her grandmother (who has progressed back to her thirties) becomes engaged to a famous rock star; and readers will likely be intrigued by the 'strictly forbidden' Well. Prudently skirting the issue of God's role in Elsewhere (when she asks about God, Liz is told simply 'God's there in the same way He, She, or It was before to you. Nothing has changed'), Margarettown author Zevin, in her first novel for young people, bends the laws of physics and biology to create an intricately imagined world. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , In this delightful novel death is a begining, a new start. Liz is killed in a hit a run accident and her 'life' takes a very unexpected turn. At nearly sixteen she knows she will never get married, never have children, and perhaps never fall in love. But in Elsewhere all things carry on almost as they did on earth except that the inhabitants get younger, dogs and humans can communicate (at last) new relationships are formed and old ones sadly interrupted on earth are renewed.

Full of the most ingenious detail and woven around the most touching and charming relationships this is a novel of hope, of redemption and re-birth. It is a novel that tells of sadness with heart-breaking honesty and of love and happiness with uplifting brilliance.

"Review" by , "A quiet book that provides much to think about and discuss."
"Review" by , "[A] work of powerful beauty....[T]his inventive novel slices right to the bone of human yearning, offering up an indelible vision of life and death as equally rich sides of the same coin."
"Review" by , "An unusual premise and a thoughtful treatment make Zevin's first effort at writing for young adults a success. Will captivate teens ready for a thought-provoking read. Hopeful and engaging."
"Review" by , "Great humor and speculation, on pets as well as people."
"Review" by , "Zevin's touch is marvelously light even as she considers profundities, easily moving among humor, wisdom and lyricism....No plot synopsis can convey what a rich, wise spell this book casts."
"Review" by , "A fun and thought-provoking page-turner. Readers...will relish Zevin's lively imagination and her fast-moving plot. Buy this book for them."
"Review" by , "Elsewhere is a funny, fast-paced, and fascinating novel. The concept is completely out there and yet the emotions are so weirdly realistic. I loved reading the story of Liz's life (death?)."
"Review" by , "Funny and pensive, happy and heartbreaking. Readers from a broad range of beliefs will find this a quirky and touching exploration of the Great Beyond."
"Synopsis" by , Elsewhere is where 15-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. However, Liz wants to turn 16, not 14 again in this moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss.
"Synopsis" by ,
Is it possible to grow up while getting younger?
"Synopsis" by , When 16-year old Gabriela's death is foretold by a letter, she must complete her "wrap-up list" before she's forced to say goodbye forever in this smart, funny, compelling, and mysterious young adult novel.
"Synopsis" by , In this modern-day suburban town, one percent of all fatalities come about in the most peculiar way. Deaths—eight-foot-tall, silver-gray creatures—send a letter (“Dear So-and-So, your days are numbered”) to whomever is chosen for a departure, telling them to wrap up their lives and do the things they always wanted to do before they have to “depart.” When sixteen-year-old Gabriela receives her notice, she is, of course devastated. Will she kiss her crush Sylvester before its too late? Friendship, first love, and fantasy artfully mesh in this magically realistic world that ultimately celebrates life.
"Synopsis" by ,
Reality TV has a dark future in this thought-provoking thriller

To the people suffering on the war-torn mainland, Bliss Island seems like an idyllic place. And it is: except for the fact that the island is a set, and the islanders lives are a performance. Theyre the stars of a hit TV show, Blissful Days—Characters are adored by mainland viewers, yet in constant danger of being cut if their ratings dip too low. And no one really knows what happens to cut Characters.

Nettie Starling knows shes been given the chance of a lifetime when a producer offers suggestions to help her improve her mediocre ratings—especially when those suggestions involve making a move on the boy shes been in love with for years. But she'll soon have to decide how far she's willing to go to keep the cameras fixed on her. . . especially when she learns what could happen to her if she doesn't.

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