Everwild by Neal Shusterman
|Everwild by Neal Shusterman|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: February 2010|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
Neal Shusterman continues his part zany adventure, part philosophical enquiry, and part coming-of-age story that began with Everlost in this follow-up that is perhaps even better than its predecessor.
Everlost is a kind of limbo and home to children - Afterlights - who have died, but somehow missed the tunnel and the light - wherever and whatever the light actually is. Adults never make it there, but significant or much-loved objects and buildings sometimes do. Mary Hightower, for instance, is so-called because she took up residence in New York in the Twin Towers. Mary thinks Everlost is a wonderful place and she "saves" the Afterlights she finds by giving them repetitive but addictive tasks to fill eternity.
Nick - the Chocolate Ogre - disagrees and he roams Everlost with a bucket containing coins that provide passage into the light. He wants all Afterlights to find their way to their originally intended destination. Allie (the Outcast) is a skinjacker - she can possess and inhabit the bodies of the living. All Allie wants is to find her family and tell them that she's ok - after that, she thinks she'll be able to take her coin and move on.
The first book built up to and ended in the inevitable stand-off between Mary and Nick but it wasn't completely final, and several subplots remained unanswered. Everwild takes up shortly after the previous climax and it's clear from the get-go that a bigger confrontation is unavoidable. Both venture to the margins of Everlost - Everwild - to raise armies of Afterlights, while Allie continues the search for her family and learns a great deal more about skinjacking.
And I loved it! The overlying narrative is pacy and tense, but the tension is punctuated by some wonderful slapstick humour, superb satire and umpteen clever pop-culture references.
Mary Hightower is a truly wonderful creation: beautiful, serene and outwardly kindly, but underneath it all she's the most delicious of sociopaths - utterly corrupted by power and with a core of true evil. I love to hate Mary! On the other hand, Nick suffers for his altruism. In Everlost, Afterlights tend to forget much of who they were when they were alive and they gradually take on the characteristics of what they do remember. Nick died while eating a candy bar and arrived in Everlost with a chocolate smear on his mouth. And Nick is gradually being taken over by that smear. The longer he lingers to save Afterlights from Mary and an eternity of peonage, the less likely it is that he will ever find the light himself.
It's probably better to have read the first book before picking up Everwild - although the worldbuilding continues on, the exposition is kept to a minimum as there's just so much going on. In some ways, it rather reminds me of some adult apocalyptic fiction - there are many threads on an inevitable collision course, similar to, say, Stephen King's The Stand. It all makes for utterly compulsive reading - and there's a reveal for Allie about skinjacking that absolutely made me jump out of my skin.
It's wickedly inventive, it's a brilliantly conceived web of a story, it's funny, it approaches the question of what comes next with kindness, and it makes some very valuable points about the corruption of power. I honestly can't recommend Everwild highly enough.
My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman takes an equally stunning look at the afterlife. They might also like Gone by Michael Grant, which also features a society of children - alive but with special powers - left to cope alone.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everwild by Neal Shusterman at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everwild by Neal Shusterman at Amazon.com.
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