Summary: When participating in a dangerous skateboarding stunt without a helmet ends her life, fourteen year-old Jade begs her mother in the afterlife for one more week so she can ensure her father and brother will be okay without her. She returns to her family to relive the week before her death, making a list of things she needs to accomplish to improve her father and brother’s lives. As the week progresses, Jade mends her father and brother’s relationship, living life to the fullest with some unexpected and wonderful surprises in the meantime. As the day of her death approaches again, Jade wonders if she can change her future and hang on to her family and life a little longer.
Number of Pages: 251
Age Range: 12-13
Review: The best word to describe Sylvia McNicoll’s Dying to Go Viral is wholesome. I love it as a pick for young teen readers because Jade is a great character who genuinely cares about her family’s well-being. It reminded me a bit of the early Alice McKinley books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, with a more serious theme of Jade’s untimely demise.
Once again, McNicoll writes a heartfelt story that captures the innocence of youth as Jade’s death serves to focus her attention on her family. Knowing her father and brother have already experienced the death of her mother, Jade does her best to make sure they have a solid relationship as they go forward without Jade too. I love how Jade also includes a couple of her own dreams in the list of things she is trying to accomplish during her last week, and has the opportunity to fully enjoy her life, realising what she has and what she will be giving up when she dies.
Having her mother to guide her in the afterlife was an especially thoughtful touch on McNicoll’s part, because I was reassured that Jade would not be alone even after death. Yes, it was extremely difficult for her to leave her father, brother, and beloved cat Oreo (found myself close to tears when she told him she’d see him soon), but at least she had her mother on the other side.
McNicoll leaves her reader with a bittersweet ending, but I appreciated that it wasn’t trite. Jade begins the book as a girl who is interested in the superficial act of going viral on YouTube, but by the end of her last week she has matured into someone who knows what truly matters in life, leaving a legacy of love in the process.
“A funny thing happens when you force yourself to stop being afraid; fear changes into exhilaration. Why couldn’t I do it again? Something began to race inside me, faster and faster. I never fall. I could do it without a helmet. My heart beat, the blood pumping into my veins, adrenalin.” – Jade from Dying to Go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll, page 16
“The lake breeze tickled through my hair. I heard the waves lap at the sand. Oreo licked at my fingers and I realized I just couldn’t concentrate. ‘Go ahead. Let him bite your neck already,’ I told the main character. Funny how a story about vampires didn’t hold your interest once you’re dead.” – Jade from Dying to Go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll, page 90
“No children, no wedding, none of the normal happy things of life for me. I looked up to the cloud of mist to get my good mood back. I searched for the rainbow. My skin felt the mist before I saw it.
Then in front of us, all those colours arced against the water. ‘There are still many wonders for us to explore.’ My mother’s words were comforting – still I was pretty sure those wonders didn’t include childbirth and raising children.” – Jade from Dying to Go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll, page 118
“My mother stroked my hair as I buried my head in her shoulder. ‘It is very difficult. To lose someone and miss them so badly.’
I felt the warmth of her love, too, and I straightened.
‘We suffer loss in our lives to remind us how lucky we are to have had those people in them.’ She took my hand and tugged me to my feet.
‘We were lucky, weren’t we, Mom?’ I smiled at her through tears.
‘Oh yes. We were blessed. We still are blessed.'” – Conversation between Jade and her mother from Dying to Go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll, page 251
Dying to Go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll is published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside, (2013).