Friday, August 2, 2013

Everlost, Neal Shusterman

Title:  Everlost
Author:  Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Year:  2006
Pages:  313
Genre:  Fantasy
Themes:  Hero's Quest
Age Range:  6th-9th Grade

Summary:  from Goodreads
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'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.

Love love love Neal Shusterman!  I think that his stories are always so creative and interesting, and after hearing his speak about his process at a conference in the spring, I have a pretty healthy respect for his imagination.  Unwind was one of the best young adult books I read in the last few years.  Everlost has the same inventiveness, and a great sense of heart.  The idea of souls existing in an alternate state, separate from the world of the living while still being able to observe, is not a new one.  But Shusterman adds some new twists, like the fact that only children stay behind, or that some places are so important that they continue to exist in Everlost even after they are destroyed.  The most emotional moment for me as an adult reader was when Allie and Nick discovered the World Trade Center towers in the New York skyline.  Over time, I think that younger readers will lose the sense of what that really means, but for me it was such a beautiful thought-that the emotional impact of the Trade Center towers was so strong that they will exist forever in more than just our memories.

What I really liked about the story was that unlike lots of ghost stories, what made this story scary was not monsters (thought there were some) or violence (though there was a little bit).  What was scary was the idea that living in Everlost caused you to lose your identity.  The longer you're there, the more you forget about yourself, and you fall into routines that create weeks and years and decades and centuries that are exactly the same, day after day after day!  Also, the whole "sink to the center of the earth" thing was pretty scary for this claustrophobic person to think about!

The end of this book sets up a conflict between two of the main character, Mary and Nick, that resembles a typical good vs. evil dynamic, but it more true to life, in that each person is acting out of what they think is best for the other "Afterlights", as the children living in Everlost are called.  The twist-they love each other as much as they disagree about the true nature of Everlost.  I am curious to see how Shusterman resolves the storyline, and whether Allie and Nick and the rest of the Afterlights ever get to that white light at the end of the tunnel.

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