June 21, 2014

Amy Huntley: "The Everafter"

Title: The Everafter [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Amy Huntley [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2009
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Fascinating concept, well executed. Relatable, believable characters. Sweet first-love story.
Cons: A little juvenile in parts. A couple of scenes could have been played out differently (leaving the slightly gross details out). The main plot device is a little overplayed.
WARNING! Teen sex is mentioned, but never described. Birth control is addressed, which is good of course.
Will appeal to: Afterlife fans who like their ghosts time-traveling, trying to mend things and investigating their own death.

Blurb: Madison Stanton doesn't know where she is or how she got there. But she does know this - she is dead. And alone, in a vast, dark space. The only company she has in this place are luminescent objects that turn out to be all the things Maddy lost while she was alive. And soon she discovers that with these artifacts, she can reexperience - and sometimes even change - moments from her life. In reliving these moments, Maddy learns illuminating and sometimes frightening truths about her life - and death. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: OK, it looks like I've learnt a couple of things about Dead Character Stories by now - you know, since they're my favourite genre ;). Afterlife books usually come in two main different categories. Some deal with a dead character who still walks the earth, searching for a connection with the living and/or watching over them...and usually investigating her/his own dead in the process (Remember Me by Christopher Pike, Absent by Katie Williams, Between by Jessica Warman). Some actually follow the dead in the afterlife, while they adjust to their new condition and/or uncover secrets (Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini, Ferryman by Claire McFall, The Memory Chronicles by Lenore Appelhans). This book, on the other hand, sort of crosses over (...see what I did here?). Not to mention, it is a coming-of-age story as well...yes, despite the lead being dead.
The story opens with 17 y.o. Madison already in the afterlife, trying to figure out who she is and how the place she ended up in works. It doesn't take long for Maddy to discover she's surrounded by artifacts from her life, a bunch of things that she lost when she was alive and that - for some unknown reason - are scattered around her in death. This concept is fascinating, and makes for a clever device in order to have Maddy revisiting moments of her life...but I have a small problem with this part. A life span of 17 years and all those lost objects? If the afterlife were like that, I wouldn't get the chance to relive more than a few moments, and I'm close to 50 O_O. [Also, you know, most meaningful moments...like not being able to locate a napkin after doing my laundry...]. Of course, I may be an extreme case (admittedly, I tend to check on every one of my possessions a bit obsessively...) but still - the amount of lost objects in a teen girl's life surely can't be that overwhelming, can it? Especially since most of them appear to have been lost at home, so they surely should have turned up again at some point. Anyway, the story wouldn't exist without them, so I'll cut this not-so-believable point some slack...
Like I said, Maddy soon finds out that every object that makes her company in the afterlife works as a catalyst for her to revisit past experiences. Also, she can either watch from a distance, or actually get sucked into Past Maddy and relive those moments - even changing them (if slightly) on occasion. Only, this causes a new reality to be superimposed on the original one - which soon cause Dead Maddy to feel weird somehow. While experimenting with her new "power", Maddy can't help wondering if it will help her unveil the secret of her own death, or even avoid it ultimately...which is of course a paradox, but she doesn't seem to notice. [...]

We follow Maddy haphazardly through a number of key moments in her life, exploring her family environment, her ongoing friendship with Sandra, her ruined one with Tammy, and (in chronological order this time, except for the first scene) her budding romance with Gabe. Not to mention, her increasing awareness - as a spirit - of a bunch of truths she missed out when alive. Oh, and there are a bit of physics and some Emily Dickinson thrown in for good measure. But you don't need to be intimidated - they're functional to the story, but not aggravating.
The small - or sometimes more consistent - vignettes that compose Maddy's story are usually enjoyable (though, personally, I would have gladly skipped the bathroom and barfing details). Maddy comes up as a little too juvenile for my tastes a couple of times, like in the sweatshirt episode...and because of the constant "ohmygod" interjection at 17...but on the whole, she's a satisfying character. Both her friendship with Sandra and her romance with Gabe are cute and believable. Of course, there are a few ominous details in them, like in the Maddy-Tammy breakup, that are meant to suggest us some possible reasons for Maddy's impending fate. The sleepover episode (when Maddy and Tammy fall apart) is ultimately revealed to be a complex piece of the puzzle, what with the superimposition of different timelines and planes of existence...but it's downright thrilling. Then again, despite its complexity, it's not brain-racking (especially in connection with the short story "Waterworld" - told in Tammy's POV - that is included in my edition as an extra).
The ultimate truth is both heartbreaking and satisfying (I mean "satisfying" as a plot resolution). Also, the ending is both sweet and clever (I mean "clever" in the way it's represented - with a symbolic use of the printed words). There's also an epilogue told by Sandra, which - besides being a suitable epitaph for Maddy - shows the impact her short life had on those who loved her.
I've just realised that this may be one of my most criptic reviews to date...in spite of the amount of words used. But I really can't be more specific without ruining the book for you. And I want you to read this book. Like, now. If you're a fan of afterlife/coming of age novels, it can't be missed. Period :).

For quotes from this book click here.
For more Afterlife books click here.

6 comments:

  1. Great review! I went immediately to Amazon to order it, and I was delighted to see that it was on sale for $3.60. I love afterlife stories too!

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    1. Wow, I feel responsible now ;). I hope you like it...let me know!
      (On a side note...you made my day. I still can't believe I'm able to steer someone toward a book...).

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  2. I like clever endings! I've been reading a lot of books about ghosts lately (Afterworlds, The Girl From the Well, Better Homes and Hauntings), but I'm not sure if one can ever read too many ghost stories. I'll be on the look out for this one!

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    1. Now that you mention it...a complete review of The Girl from the Well would be nice...not that I'm being pushy ;P.

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  3. This sound so interesting Roberta. I'm not usually a fan of afterlife stories but this sounds unique enough to give it a shot.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    Replies
    1. It is rather unique indeed, as far as afterlife stories go (and you know I'm like the unofficial expert about them LOL).

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