When 14-year-old Jim dashes onto a busy Toronto street in hot pursuit of Lloyd, his favourite whipping boy, he’s sure he’s got the situation in hand. After all, the whole west end neighbourhood is terrified of the young tough guy, and Lloyd, wimp that he is, couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag. But Jim’s trick ankle catches on the streetcar tracks, sending him to the asphalt, where he cracks his head and ends up under a blue Pontiac.
Then things get weird. Jim stands up, brushes himself off, and finds himself standing next to Tadeusz, a local criminal legend who just happens to have been killed two years earlier. Jim realizes he’s face to face with a ghost – a Mourner, Tadeusz informs him, a grey phantom forced to walk the Earth to atone for his crimes. When Tadeusz tells Jim he’s having a near-death experience, the teen realizes he’s in for a few life lessons before being allowed to return to his wounded body.
Me & Death is veteran YA author Richard Scrimger’s witty and original riff on the Scrooge story. Jim’s trip to the Jordan Arms, a low-rent hotel somewhere deep in Purgatory, is surprisingly chilling, with a series of eclectic but doomed spectres filling in for Dickens’ Christmas ghosts. Scrimger might have included a little more backstory early on to better prepare the reader for the tale’s gut punches, but young readers might have skipped the deep stuff to get to the ghosts, anyway.