The First Assignment

Young Adult - Fantasy - Urban
385 Pages
Reviewed on 11/18/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite

When Shawn woke up inside a moving carriage with no recollections of the last few days, his first thought was that someone had kidnapped him. Yet, did kidnappers use horse-drawn carriages and dress like they were from a different era? Shawn’s confusion escalated when they brought him to a school, of all places. Which school kidnapped their students and hosted an orientation ceremony that involved a beheading? As an institute that taught dead teenagers how to become proficient reapers and harvest souls, life in Wayward Academy was a deviation from what Shawn had considered normal. He decided to give this ‘life’ a chance until all hell broke loose when his first reaping assignment went awry. Read The First Assignment by Billy Kramer to find out what happens to Shawn.

With its intriguing premise, this young adult novel will surely appeal to anyone who loves fantasy and paranormal reads. The unique storyline immediately grabbed my attention. Kramer did a marvelous job with world-building, delineating the intricacies of the reaper community. An entire academy with its three interconnected factions and strict guidelines made for an interesting read. Kramer wasted no time diving headfirst into a complicated tale full of secrets, grudges, and betrayals. I liked how Kramer portrayed a grim subject like death in a new light. While the depressing job took its toll on the recently deceased teens, some spark of life still burned bright during this second chance. Teenage jubilance and humor, interspersed with grief and uncertainties, created a rare medley that prompted us to think about our purpose. If one missed the opportunity to make a difference while alive, shouldn’t one grab the chance to do so even when dead? I rooted for Shawn throughout his battle with death. The action scenes kept me glued to pages, the tension mounting high with each passing second. The First Assignment is a fantastic start to a promising new series, and I cannot wait to read the sequels.

Melanie Kennedy

The First Assignment is an action-packed fantasy novel by Billy Kramer. Shawn is a typical 17-year-old boy, except for the fact that he is dead. After waking up in a small compartment, it seems his real journey is only just beginning, as he is dropped off at Wayward Academy – a school for reapers (you know: the grim kind). The school specializes in tracking and finally collecting the souls of the dearly departed. Shawn and some of the new friends he’s made at the Academy have to go through several nerve-wracking and psychologically taxing trials before they can call themselves reapers. An innocent Halloween night back among the living puts their whole profession and the Academy at risk. Can Shawn follow the Academy’s rules or will he try to save a life instead of collecting it?

I am in love with Billy Kramer’s imagination! The First Assignment has an incredibly unusual and quirky plot and I wish I was as witty and brave at 17 as Shawn. Billy has created a one-of-a-kind world with morbidly fascinating lore and plenty of action. The dialogue and scenes are well-written and portray what I imagine nearly every newly-dead teenager would be thinking. Billy has created such an intricate and interesting world and spends enough time on exposition to keep you interested in the fantasy, but not too much to bore you. If you are a lover of paranormal and fantasy themes, this is the book for you. I enjoyed every second of reading this unique novel and can’t wait until the world gets explored in future books.

Liz Konkel

The First Assignment by Billy Kramer is an original take on the afterlife. Shawn's life has come to an abrupt end. The last thing he expected after death was to go to school and study to become a reaper. He wakes up confused and soon finds himself taken to the Wayward Academy where he and other recently dead become student reapers. He makes new friends and together they navigate the rocky roads of their first year. But this afterlife is more complicated than expected when he receives his first soul to reap and soon discovers – along with the students - the harsh realities of death and life after death. As his new existence sets in around him, Shawn must decide for himself what to make of this new life, the difference he can make, and whether he's truly cut out to be a reaper.

The focus of the book isn't on Shawn's life before but rather on his existence afterward. Humor is quickly presented within the writing which sets the tone of both Shawn's character and the world itself. The humor has a dark edge to it such as in how Shawn refers to the smell of decay and constant rocking motion as small annoyances. By doing so in a humorous sense, it serves as a clever way for Kramer to introduce this world through the immediate references to death and the quick transition to the academy. Kramer has a specific writing style seen in the use of death imagery spread throughout. Shawn holds onto the dreams he had when alive about wanting to make a difference and puts them into his new life as he becomes a young reaper. His journey is rooted in finding out how he can make a difference when he's already dead and the obstacles he endures lead to a few surprises.

The author knows how to make great use of simple details and phrases that capture the story's tonal blend of lighthearted and dark. Vivid descriptions paint rich visuals. A unique approach to death, The First Assignment tackles a serious topic with humor, genuine seriousness, lush writing, and engaging characters.