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Book review: 'The Afterlife Academy' is a fun, suspenseful read
"The Afterlife Academy is by Frank L. Cole. - photo by Wendy Jessen
"THE AFTERLIFE ACADEMY," by Frank L. Cole, Delacorte Press, $16.99, 278 pages (f) (ages 9-12)

Author Frank L. Cole brings the fictional Underworld to life in his latest middle grade book, "The Afterlife Academy."

Twelve-year-old Walter Prairie gets struck by lightning while weeding the garden and dies. But instead of going to heaven like he expects, he finds himself in a Categorizing office. After taking a required test, he skips the Afterlife Academy and gets his first assignment: Guardian Agent (not angel) of a High Level Target.

Walter's High Level Target, Charlie Dewdle, is obsessed with everything paranormal. When Charlie finds a highly dangerous book, "The Summoner's Handbook," his life takes some unexpected turns which puts him and his family in grave danger.

Walter must try to figure out how to protect Charlie, but without proper training, he's learning on the job. Walter and Charlie must fight against the Underworld to protect humankind. With help from Wisdom Willows, the online paranormal expert, they take on a risky plan to destroy "The Summoner's Handbook" to prevent the Underworld from gaining power.

Not only does the duo have to deal with the fantasy world of shades, demons, banshees and wraiths, but also regular 12-year-old stuff school bullies, getting grounded, dealing with parents and a popular girl, Melissa Bittner, who is suddenly talking to Charlie.

Cole's fast-paced fantasy can be enjoyed by the entire family. His use of humor and suspense is a winning combination for an adventurous and delightful read.

"The Afterlife Academy" is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, Sept. 8. It has no foul language or sexual innuendos. There is some mild described violence while fending off a bully and fighting with Underworld creatures. Though it deals with entities from the Underworld, it doesn't delve deep into dark territory, thus avoiding becoming a scary read for children.

Cole is also the author of the Hashbrown Winters and The Guardians series, also for middle grade readers.