Everlost by Neal Shusterman
|Everlost by Neal Shusterman|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Completely gorgeous fantasy adventure set in a kind of afterlife limbo for children. It's exciting and pacy, but it's also irresistibly humorous and utterly serious. The final pay-off is superb. How you get all that into 384 pages, Bookbag doesn't know, but it does stand in awe.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: July 2009|
|Publisher: Simon & Shuster|
|External links: Author's website|
Allie and Nick don't survive the crash. Thrown out of the tunnel going towards the light, they awake in Everlost, a curious limbo and parallel world peopled only by children. They can see the living world, but they can't walk on it without sinking. They can't be seen or heard by the living either. They're ghosts, or in Everlost lingo, Afterlights. And they're greensoul Afterlights at that. Allie is determined to get home, but to do that, she must avoid the many perils that lurk in Everlost's magical but dangerous corners. She could sink to an eternity at the Earth's core through gravity fatigue, or she could - and does - fall into the clutches of the Haunter or the monstrous McGill. Nick is more sanguine - he's looking for comfort and safety, and it seems to him that Mary Hightower, who takes care of Afterlights in Everlost's ghostly passed-on World Trade Towers, might offer the security he needs...
I don't mind admitting that I felt quite nervous about reading Everlost. Shusterman's last book, Unwind was my book of the year last year, but it was so disturbing that I actually gave away my copy so that I couldn't read it again. Set in a dystopian future society that practises retroactive abortion on troublesome teenagers, it was shocking, thought-provoking and utterly, utterly gripping. So I did wonder what difficult thoughts Everlost, with its limbo setting and its exploration of the human soul and its after-death journey, would present me with.
Interestingly, it's an altogether more kindly book than Unwind. That is not to say that it does not challenge the reader, or duck frightening questions, because it does challenge, and it does face up to its theme. As well as imagining what comes after death, it also examines the corruption of power and the nature of redemption. But this stuff, while never shunted completely to the background, is rendered less terrifying by the vivid world Shusterman has created in Everlost, the pace of the adventure in the narrative, the black humour, and the wonderfully original use of language.
Shusterman writes with a great ease and so immediately invites his readers right into the middle of his world. I completely believed in Everlost right from the get-go - and worldbuilding usually tries my soul, if you'll pardon a word in questionable taste. But here, I loved it that Shusterman's limbo residents are poetically called Afterlights with the newbies as greensouls, and I found myself thinking that gravity fatigue truly did sound like a fate worse than death. But before you get too carried away with it all, Shusterman nips in with an out-of-the-blue contemporary reference - As for the woman Allie had possessed, once she regained control of her body, she... determined that she and her husband would move as far away from Amityville as possible - that you laugh out loud.
So it's part zany adventure, part philosophical enquiry, and part coming-of-age - even if it's a ghostly coming-of-age. It has great writing, interesting worldbuilding, and ethical challenges. It also has the most marvellous twist in its tail that I should have seen coming but didn't, because I was simply too absorbed to think outside the immediate pages. I hate writing reviews of books that I have loved because I always make them sound less than they are. Everlost is more than I make it sound. So your children should read it, and so should you.
My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Shuster for sending the book.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman takes an equally stunning look at the afterlife. Older teens might like to look at Alice Sebold's adult hit from a few years ago, The Lovely Bones. We can also recommend Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton.
Everlost by Neal Shusterman is in the Top Ten Beach Reads For Teens.
Everlost by Neal Shusterman is in the Top Ten Book Recommendations From Twitterers.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everlost by Neal Shusterman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everlost by Neal Shusterman at Amazon.com.
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