Ellie Anderson is Dead

by Sophie Clarke. Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2023

Ellie didn’t think she was dead, she knew she was dead.

Yep. She knew it. Not because of her fingers freezing up and going purple under the nails. Not because of the hard waiting room chair getting colder the longer she sat on it, and not because of the way the twenty or so other kids in the waiting room with her sat trembling, silent tears streaming down their faces. The ones that were awake, that is.

Nope. Ellie knew she was dead because of the big red posters tacked all over the white walls. The ones which said: YOU ARE DEAD.

They were a bit of a giveaway.

Some posters were shiny and new, others were yellowing and peeling at the edges. Either way, they all said the same thing. They all told Ellie she was dead.


It’s not like anyone would care. Not her dad (wherever he was). Not her Grandma Mag (God rest her soul). Not her friends (especially not Carly; she would probably celebrate, that cow). Maybe not even her mum.

The thought of Mum sent a twinge of sorry down to Ellie’s stomach, but she tried to squish it. Mum’d be fine.

Slouching as far down in her seat as teenagerly possible, Ellie side-eyed the gangly Asian boy sat next to her. He didn’t side-eye her back. So then she coughed like she and her mates did in assemblies to annoy the teachers. But he didn’t look annoyed. He didn’t even blink. It was only when she tapped—well, kicked really—his foot and he flinched, crossing his legs and giving her a weak smile, that she got any kind of confirmation that he wasn’t a total robot.

Huffing, Ellie went back to staring around the room. What was wrong with everyone? Never had Ellie been in a room with so many kids for so long without at least four pens being pelted across it.