A fantastic debut from the winner of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards novel contest. When Erika wakes up after a horrific car crash, she finds herself somewhere between earth and heaven, between life and death. She doesn't want to accept help from Jeremiah, who she's not sure she can trust, even as she finds herself drawn to him, following him into a grim city of souls. She's not sure who wants to help her and who wants to hurt her. And she's desperate to get back to her children. Shawn's never thought about having to shoulder the responsibility of caring for his young sister Megan and his reckless older sister. And he never imagined that the three of them would find themselves in a haunted wood, sometimes chased, sometimes assisted, never sure where they're headed. With Grim, the terrifically talented Anna Waggener delves into the place where myth becomes reality, where family can distort you as easily as it cares for you, where death and eternity meet.
What held me back from giving this book a higher rating was a combination of the pacing and the worldbuilding. We jump from one POV to the next (sometimes we even headhop POVs within the same scene), and it begins to feel difficult to stay within the narrative flow of the story. I was in too many characters' heads and ended up not feeling a strong enough connection to anyone. The initial scenes with Erica and Jeremiah in the afterlife were especially hard to follow as descriptions and actions felt vague, and I couldn't get a picture painted in my head. The worldbuilding in the afterlife felt a bit like a giant crockpot with a dash of THIS mythology and a heaping spoon of THAT mythology all stirred together until I had a hard time really grasping the structure and rules. That made it hard to really FEEL for the stakes of the novel and cheer for a good resolution to the conflict.
Ms. Waggener is clearly a talented writer. Her prose is polished and lovely, she creates an atmospheric tension appropriate to her subject matter, and I hope in her next book to see her step fully into the promise she exhibits in GRIM.