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Haunting Summer Books: 9 Book With Deceased Protagonists

Posted: 07/06/2012 10:37 am

Compelling literary characters usually have a few things in common: they're complex, they're flawed, they inspire sympathy or loathing or even a flash of unsettling recognition. Oh, and one other thing: sometimes, they're stone dead.

From ghostly protagonists to long-dead foils, literature is full of characters whose lives are over before the story even begins - and whom, though we never actually have the pleasure of meeting them, capture our imaginations through flashback, memory, or post-humous narration. The upshot: some of the best books are the ones featuring characters who spend most or all of their stories having shuffled off this mortal coil, but who live on -- be it literally or metaphorically -- in the turning of the pages. Here are a few, many recent and most targeted at young adults, that stand above the rest:

"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
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Murdered fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon isn't just a character in this story, but its narrator. After being raped and killed in an underground room by her serial killer neighbor, Susie watches unseen from a lonely Heaven populated only by herself, where she struggles to come to terms with her all-too-brief time on earth and observes her family, her friends, and even her killer as they negotiate their lives in the aftermath of her death. Although her passed-on status gives Susie certain ghostly privileges -- among them an omniscient viewpoint that serves her well in her role as storyteller -- she's as real and vulnerable in her afterlife as any living character found in these pages.
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