Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA (Fantasy/ Paranormal)
Publisher: Simon Pulse (US) / Simon & Schuster Children (UK)
Publishing Date: Nov 6 2007/ Jul 6 2009
Paperback: 384 pages
Stand alone or series: First in the Skinjacker trilogy
Summary: Nick and Allie don’t survive the crash, and now they are in limbo, stuck halfway between life and death, in a netherworld known as Everlost. Everlost is home to those who didn’t make it to their final destination: A magical yet dangerous place filled with shadows where lost souls run wild. Shocked and frightened, Nick and Allie aren’t ready to rest in peace just yet. They want their lives back. Desperate for a way out, their search takes them deep into the uncharted regions of Everlost. But the longer they stay, the more they forget about their past lives. And with all memory of home fading fast and an unknown evil lurking in the shadows, Nick and Allie may never escape this strange, terrible world. In this imaginative, supernatural thriller, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.
Everlost was not at all what I was expecting. When I was harassed enlisted by Thea to read a Ghost story I was half expecting to be scared to death (since Ghosts are the Things That I Fear The Most) but Everlost is not an usual ghost story. Instead it is an adventure of the highest calibre.
It begins thusly:
“On a hairpin turn, above the dead forest, on no day in particular, a white Toyota crashed into a black Mercedes, for a moment blending into a blur of gray”.
Nick and Allie don’t survive the crash and as they go into that tunnel towards the light, they end up bumping into each other, going off course and missing the light altogether. They sleep for nine months and wake up confused, now in Everlost (a limbo-like place for children only) and are greeted by Lief, a lonely boy who has inhabited the dead forest for a long time. Overwhelmed with happiness at the prospect of company, he explains a few things about Everlost to Nick and Allie but as Greensouls the questions pile up and Lief’s answers are not enough.
They decide to embark on a trek to where they used to live and find out if their parents survived the crash. You see, as any Greensoul recently arrived in Everlost, they sort of still believe that they can revert their deaths. This is a journey fraught with perils like Gravity Fatigue, where if you walk in places that are alive, you start to descend thought the earth down to its centre, so the first thing they need to learn is how to find a way to walk without losing themselves. Plus there are bullies like Johnny O. or monsters like the McGill on the loose.
As they go on, they realise that they are really death and there is no return. All that is left to them is to accept it and to learn the rules of the afterlife, beginning with lessons from Mary Hightower, one of the oldest inhabitants and responsible for a large group of kids who live in the ghostly Twin Towers of Manhattan. Mary knows a lot about Everlost , about the place itself and about the things that cross from the land of the living via either the dead spots or because they were so loved that they have an eternal presence in the world. As the author of many loved books such as The Gravity of Gravity (whereupon Gravity Fatigue is explained ), Spectral Visions: An Afterlight’s Guide to Looking One’s (the importance of reminding oneself of how one looks lest you become less of yourself) or Death Be Not Dull (in which she explains about the Greensouls and about the important of Routine), Mary is their light at the end of the tunnel (pun so intended) and Allie, Nick and Lief join her ranks.
HOWEVER, soon Allie, the more inquisitive and rebellious of the kids starts to realise that most of the children are living in a rut: their movements are repeated every single day and she starts to mistrust Mary’s lessons. Nick, on the other hand, who is a more accommodating kid, is perfectly happy where he is , especially when he starts to fall in love with Mary. Until he too, realises he is falling into a routine and together they leave to find out more.
This is when things get really interesting. Even though Nick and Allie start the book and their journey together, their paths in Everlost are not the same. Each undertakes their own adventure and go through life-altering experiences. For Nick, his story is connected with Mary’s whereas Allie ends up having to deal with the McGill. There are plenty of twists and turns and the plot expands over time and space within Everlost. Even though I saw from a mile ahead the twist involving the McGill, still this book was completely unpredictable in many ways plot-wise, or the way the character’s arcs – Nick’s, Allie’s, Mary’s and others – were executed. The biggest surprise though was how imaginative this book turned out to be.
Everything about Everlost was so creative and interesting that I kept turning the pages to see what wonders the author would throw at me. It also helps that many a thing about Everlost is of a brand of ironic humour which I am most fond of. Like how important Chinese Fortune Cookies, A.K.A. Evil Chinese Pastry of Death, are and how they plan such an important role in the story. Or how each kid in Everlost remains as they were at the time of death. For example, when Nick died , he was eating a chocolate bar and he is to spend eternity with chocolate smudges all over his face. He is not as unfortunate as the kid who died wearing a swimsuit though – Speedo is his name, by the way.
There is high adventure, real danger, pain, loss, love, hope and all the way to its perfect, bittersweet ending, I totally, totally loved this book and had a great time reading it. For once, I was extremely happy to find out it was only the first one in a trilogy and the next book, Everwild is out in a couple of months. Ellie and Nick have plenty of adventures and important roles to play in the future of Everlost and I can’t wait to read more.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: There are many things worth quoting in Everlost, but of course, I need to go with silly-funny. This one , cracked me up:
“Allie was alone in an elevator the following morning, when a human skeleton got in on the ninety-eighth floor.
Allie gasped at the sight of him.
“Get over it”, the skeleton-boy said as the elevator doors closed.
Allie quickly realised who it was. He wasn’t a skeleton at all. He simply had white makeup all over his face, with black around the eyes, and wore a cheap Halloween skeleton costume. His Afterlight glow merely added to the overall effect.
“Sorry”, said Allie. “You just caught me off guard”
There were two kids here who had the supreme misfortune of crossing on Halloween: this kid, another green face-paint and fake peeling skin. Everyone called them Skully annd Molder.”
Verdict: A great, imaginative adventure of the highest calibre with many unexpected turns. It is a great plot-driven novel without losing sight of its characters and their personal journeys in their brand of Afterlife.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber