Saturday, October 31, 2009

A (Really-Not-All-That) Spooky Halloween Review

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Maddy Stanton is dead. At least she thinks she is. There's really no other explanation for her current situation: she's suspended in the darkness, alone and confused. She's not hungry or sore or anything, because well, she no longer has a body. She doesn't have much of a memory either - she can't even recall how she died. All she knows is that it's getting awfully boring floating around in this nothingness. Where are the people she loves? What is this place anyway - heaven, Hell or somewhere in between? And what in the world happened to her back on good ole planet Earth?

The Everafter (my ARC is actually titled The After, a name I think is much more interesting) by Amy Huntley, begins with Maddy's mysterious awakening in blackness. She knows that she's not gone, that she still is, but she doesn't know why or how. All she does know is that she wants to go back. Back to her mom, her boyfriend, her sister, her life. Only that doesn't appear to be possible. When she notices a strange series of objects hovering in space - a bracelet, a handbag, a pinecone, etc. - she realizes they represent things she's lost over her lifetime (and as a certified resident of the Land of People Who Misplace Things, that's a lot of stuff). Moving her non-self toward them helps her divebomb back to Earth. Well, kinda. As Maddy "returns" to moments in her life - some pivotal, some ordinary - she makes startling discoveries about her life, her death and what it all means. But only by visiting each object is she able to get a complete picture. With each one, she remembers more. Will the detritus of her life help her figure out how she died? More importantly, can it help her get back to her loving family, her distraught best friend, her devoted boyfriend and her pregnant sister? Or will she be stuck in this lonely void forever?

It's hard to explain this story, because it's unique in a lot of ways. Not that a hundred other books haven't featured characters going back in time somehow to learn from or change their pasts, but The Everafter (which I really, really want to call The After) takes a little bit different approach. Even though it's kinda sorta been done before, I think the premise behind this book is fascinating. I love the idea of all the memories attached to the things we love in life, the thought that these seemingly irrelevant objects retain a little part of us even after we leave them behind. While Huntley's ideas about the Afterlife don't completely gel with mine, I like her vision of enduring relationships and a purposeful eternity.

Still, perhaps the whole meaning of life and death thing is just too big of a subject, because The Everafter feels underdeveloped to me. The characters are more flat than round, the dialogue's more forced than natural, and some of the scenes seem ... extraneous. It's also more lighthearted than I expected, which isn't a bad thing really, just not what I thought. I wanted an atmospheric spine-tingler - what I got was more of an angsty teen romance with a little bit of mystery tossed in. The life/death thing makes it unique, but that's about all that makes it different. Soooo, I guess I'm a little bit ambivalent. I liked The Everafter, I just didn't love it. And, even though it features a few wandering souls, it's not really a Halloween-ish type book. Next year, I'll stick with Stephen King.

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language and mild sexual content

To the FTC with love: I got this ARC from Harper Teen.

2 comments:

  1. It is difficult to tackle Big Questions like that and do it justice. This book does sound intriguing though. And I really like the cover.

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