Sunday, December 22, 2013

Everlost: Neal Shusterman

Everlost: Neal Shusterman
Rating:  8/10 4 stars
Series: Skinjacker Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Release Date: October 1, 2006
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 313 pages

Goodreads Synopsis: Nick and Allie don't survive the car accident...

...but their souls don't exactly get where they're supposed to get either. Instead, they're caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It's a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost children run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.

When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost kids, Nick feels like he he's found a home, but Allie isn't satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the "Criminal Art" of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between

My Background: I knew three facts about this book before reading it. Number One: It was part of the "Skinjacker Trilogy". Number Two: Neal Shusterman wrote it so it was going to be awesome. Number Three: Some people on Goodreads had thought it was a bit childish. 

Plot 9/10: I don't know where to begin. As usual, Shusterman makes up an entire universe, along with all of the needed rules and regulations there. Everlost is complicated, unique work of art that required a lot of careful planning and creativity to make up all the rules of the souls that aren't living or dead, I refuse to say 'undead' because they aren't. He had to come up with everything from why they didn't have to breathe, from how to get birthday cake, and how to find a place where you won't sink the center of the earth. 

There is just so much to say about the rules of Everlost, Mary Hightower has written volumes, so if you have any questions, leave it in the comments. The gist of it is that Everlost is the place between the living world and the afterlife. Only certain things can "cross-over" such as things that were wrecked before their time, and children under the age of 17. Everlost mirrors the real world, if not in a haze. If a being in everlost steps out onto something living in this world, then they will sink to--as rumored--the center of the earth. The souls in Everlost are like ghosts--but aren't--in the sense that living people/things can step right through them and have no idea they were doing it. There are some select few that can "Skinjack", which means they can step inside a living person's body and control their minds, thoughts, and actions.

As previously mentioned, I had heard of complaints about how this book is more MG or Middle Grade, and I do agree with those people, but a teenager--like myself--can still enjoy this book. The romance isn't graphic, the violence and danger is stressed only enough to scare a 4th grader, and the choice form of torture is to stick people into pickle barrels for eternity.

As classically with Shusterman, he writes in third-person POV, but features individual characters as if by first-person. There are essentially four plot threads that eventually get weaved into one magnificent rope of thrill. Allie's, Mary Hightower's, Lief and Nick, and the McGill's. In short, this is a wonderful plot full of twists, turns, and adventure in a world that may very well exist.

Characters 6/10: Neal, Neal, Neal, you disappoint me with these characters, like your previous books, they're all one-dementional, and the development and growth is either non-existent, or all at once. The four main characters are Allie, the skeptical one who becomes an outsider and forges her own path (how original) through the story. Nick, the guy that is content once he reaches the Everlost, but has enough fire to know that something is up. Lief, the guy Allie and Nick find in the dead forest that follows them because he's an 11 year-old boy who at times still wants his mommy. Mary Hightower, the guardian/caretaker of more than 300 children in what used to be the Twin Towers.

Favorite- By far I loved Mary Hightower. Despite being alive for hundreds of years, she never really grew up, or got the whole romance thing right. She's 15 and in charge of over 300 children in the Twin Towers, providing necessary nourishment and housing for them. She's the one who makes sure everything goes right. In the quote below, she says she's the mentor, guardian, and mother to them. Mary needs to care for them, but can't get too emotionally attached because she needs to make sure everything goes smoothly. she knows how to play the games of life, and be a leader, if not a very truthful one. She's smart and tactical, but still needs to get off her high horse sometimes. Overall, she's nowhere near the strong female characters in most novels nowadays, but reminds me more of Luxa from "The Underland Chronicles" by Suzanne Collins.

Romance- Neal Shusterman may be a great author, but I cringe at the romance every time in three separate books/series. Except for two moments; the quote below about Mary's feelings for Nick, and everything is an utter disaster. I don't feel like Nick and Mary had enough time to connect, and when the "Big L" comes, I feel it's completely too soon. It wasn't even the classic "hostile girl's hard exterior is weather down by funny guy and they fall in love" sort of romance, it was this. Step 1, Mary meets Nick, and tries to act superior. Step 2, Mary disregards everything and falls head-over-heels in love.

Cover 10/10: When I was in the in-between period between books, a friend of mine came over to bake gingerbread cookies (we burned them), I asked her which book I should read next based on the cover alone. She said either "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" by Holly Black, or "Everlost", because of the eerie feeling it gives off. May I say, the color scheme is brilliant. The cover was basically different shades of green, the trees fading off in the background, Allie an Nick running towards something. I think Allie and Nick running towards something made the cover better because it left "room for the imagination" as Anne Shirley would say. If they had been running towards us, it would have been perceived as they were running away from something, that they were afraid, but this way we feel like as readers we are trying to catch up with them. The cover could not have been done better.

Title 9/10: I would personally lost to see what "Everlost" has been called in the early drafts. It's obvious to name a book after its location, but rarely the first choice. I would have loved to have read "Mary Hightower's Rule When Two Strange Children Pop Into Her World and Destroy Everything". I think the title couldn't have been better because just being everlost, or forever lost. Where are you lost? Why are you lost? All of those questions and more come up just when reading the title.

Pacing 5.5/10: My feelings about the pacing of this book were very mixed. I almost felt there were some unneeded parts or sequences in the book that could have been taken out, making it a much shorter book. After the initial introduction to the book, and what my Language Arts teacher would like to call the "Exposition" where we get to know who the characters are, the basic plot, and setting, I felt a lot was unnecessary. Don't take my word for it on the page numbers, but around pages 35-55 I felt like I didn't need. All it was explaining was Lief, Allie, and Nick's journey from their forest to Mary Hightower's residence. There was the whole part where the trio was intercepted by some "bad guys", who do come back later, that was a little boring. I don't know how Shusterman could have changed it, but it was boring hearing all about Nick and Allie's panic at being in the Everlost. Then once Nick and Lief were caught by the "Mcgill" there were some scenes that I felt like wasted my time. Overall the pacing of the book was like an earthquake seismograph. A straight line, then sudden action knocking the plot off the charts, but it was sporadic and the thrill was unevenly distributed.

Writing Style 7/10: If you have read any of Shusterman's books before, you will know this is a classic, if not geared a little towards younger readers between the ages of 8-12. It has the subliminal humor just underneath the surface, but was lacking the sarcasm featured in "Unwind".  There isn't much to say about it that isn't in "Characters" or "Pacing".

Feels 6.75/10: The feels of contemporary books rarely measure up to those of any genre that isn't and that reins true here. I think the feels described in action, fantasy, dystopian, or any other genre of the like have to be measured in suspense, thrill, and action. The cliche "edge of your seat" "page turner" moments in a book are the defining factors.Sure I felt the expected emotions at the expected times, but nothing made me want to fall to my knees yelling "NOOOO!!!!", except the ending with the romance which I shall not talk about.

Ending 10/10: May I just say, the last three chapters were some of the most plot-twisting, Oh-My- Gosh-How-Could-I-Have-Been-So-Blind moments in a book. I can't spoil them *wipes away tear* but I can tell you that you will be GOL, "Gasping Out Loud". Lose ends were tied, but those ones led to even more threads.

Continuation: 100% yes I will read the next book. If not a little more Middle Grade, I certainly enjoyed it and the ending almost killed me. I am going to the library tomorrow and I need to get the sequel.

Quotes 3/10: As you know I have to write down two quotes for the cursed reading log. I have to admit after reading about five contemporaries in a row, I was disappointed with the number of quoteworthy quotes. The two I chose are actually more geared towards the plot itself than mind-blowing, life- changing realizations.
"She was a mentor. She was a guardian. She needed to keep an emotional distance from the kids under her wing. She could care about them-but only the way a mother loves her children. As long as she remembered this, she would be fine." Page 80. Mary Hightower
"The McGill had not let his temper rage this powerfully for a very long time. He had forgotten how good it felt. Anger! Let it fill him. Let it rage like a dance of flames." Page 247. McGill
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