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'Reaper' by debut Utah author Kyra Leigh is a beautifully raw tale of love and death

"REAPER," by Kyra Leigh, Simon & Schuster, $18.99, 247 pages (f) (ages 12 and up)

New young adult novel "Reaper" by debut Utah author Kyra Leigh asks: What if the dying are released by souls who have already passed on?

After her father's death, Rosie believed he was in paradise. She didn't know until she died too that he had to work a shift as the grim reaper first. To pass from death to paradise, each person must collect three souls whose time has come. It's only a tap on the shoulder — nothing gory — but Rosie knows too well from her father's death the pain she would cause. If she refuses to collect three souls, though, she will be trapped in limbo for eternity. Her father is waiting for her in paradise, and she can be with him again if she can bring herself to fulfill her assignment as reaper.

"Reaper" is beautifully raw and myopic. In stark contrast to many other young adult writers, Leigh refuses to get bogged down in excessive world building, giving readers just enough to follow along. As a result, the novel is a beautifully focused snapshot of Rosie's final months on Earth. The simplicity of this approach fits perfectly with the seeming randomness of life, death and love. Some readers may be turned off by the unfinished edges of "Reaper," but many others will appreciate the artistry of Leigh's work.

Leigh is a Utah native and daughter of award-winning author and blogger Carol Lynch Williams.

"Reaper" has one profanity and no sexual content. One scene depicting the accidental death of a small child may be too disturbing for some readers. Mature themes such as death, grief and accountability are discussed throughout the novel.

If you go …

What: Kyra Leigh book signing

When: Tuesday, Aug. 22, 7 p.m.

Where: Provo Library, 550 N. University Ave., Provo


Rachel Chipman hopes heaven will have books stacked to the ceiling and eternity available for reading. She is a BYU alumnus and the mother of two miniature book-lovers.