May Bird lives in an isolated house on the edge of the woods -- not far from an abandoned town from which residents mysteriously disappeared many years earlier. Her mother worries about her, because she'd rather be alone in the woods than with children her own age. May does try to fit in at school, practicing smiles in front of the mirror to make them look less like the grimaces they are. She does this to make her mother feel better, but also because May is trying desperately to convince her not to send her to a private boarding school in New York.
May Bird loves exploring the woods with her strange little hairless Rex named Somber Kitty. Somber Kitty is, in fact, my personal favorite character in this book. He is not a talking cat, but there are sections from his point of view, and his dry outlook on life is just wonderful. One day May, exploring the old abandoned buildings, discovers a letter in the ruined post office, dated from before she was born -- and is astonished to find it is addressed to her. In it is a plea for help - someone needs her, and that unusual circumstance leads May to explore the woods farther than she's ever gone -- all the way to the lake.
She falls in the lake, and finds herself being pulled down, down, and when she wakes up, she's in the Ever After. A land populated by ghosts, specters, ghouls, and the confused spirits of the newly dead. She is relieved to find that she's not dead, but only until she learns that live people are not allowed in the Ever After. Somber Kitty follows her, and in his search for May he is captured by the ghosts of ancient Egyptians bent on worshiping -- and sacrificing -- him. May is on the run, wanting only to get back home to her mother and her cat (who she believes is safe at home), but also aware that the letter writer awaits her far to the north, and she is the only one that can save the people there from a fate that is -- literally worse than death.
May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Atheneum 2005)