Double Haiku Review: Everlost and Everwild…

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It’s Mad Martha with you on this fine afternoon! It’s been a while since I’ve popped out a haiku review, but really, it’s high time Neal Shusterman gets another outing given how much we enjoy his work over here in Shelf-ville.  After feeling devastated a number of years ago on finding out after finishing book one in his Skinjacker series, Everlost, that my library did not have any of the others in the series, you can only imagine my joy on randomly happening across book two, Everwild, while browsing at Booktopia.

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And guess how much it was?

No, go on, have a guess.

Nope, cheaper than that.

Get this: $1.75. With FREE shipping!!

Of course I had to immediately buy it – in fact, such was my excitement that I accidentally ordered two copies, so now I have one for the week and one for Sunday Best.  You can see from the picture that I’m clearly beside myself over this serendipitous occurence.

In the first book in the series, teenagers Nick and Allie, after dying in the same car accident, find themselves in a sort of limbo for children known to its residents as “Everlost”. Everlost is entirely populated by the souls of children under the age of 17(known as Afterlights) who seemingly got distracted on their way down the tunnel into the light of the the proper afterlife.  In an interesting quirk of Everlost, the events surrounding each Afterlight’s death often become a permanent feature of their current appearance – for example, Nick had the misfortune to die while munching on a chocolate bar, and as a result now bears an eternal facial smear of the stuff.  Afterlights may also find they have gained particular abilities that can be a help or a hinderance in their new existence.  Allie for instance, discovers that she has the talent of “skinjacking” – the ability to jump inside living people, or fleshies, and make them do her bidding.  The book mostly deals with Nick and Allie’s attempts to come to terms with their new afterlife, and along the way they meet a varied crew of monsters, bullies and (supposed!) saints who are all putting their own personal stamp on their little piece of pre-Paradise.

everlost

Stuck forever young

in adolescent limbo

How low can you go?

In Everwild, we rejoin Nick and Allie as they separately work against the machinations of Mary Hightower, the self-styled ruler and mother-duck of Everlost, who has far-reaching visions of making Everlost her own personal paradise through some very ethically-dubious methods indeed.  The significance of one’s own self-image is ever-present as Nick and Mikey McGill discover the double-edged sword of celebrity, Everlost-style.  Allie meanwhile uncovers the incredible secret behind her ability to skinjack.  Add to this a few new characters struggling to define their sense of what is right in an existence with no rules, and the increasingly self-righteous actions of Mary Hightower and you’ve got yourself an eventful read!

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You are what you eat,

steal, remember or create.

Pays to choose wisely.

One of the things we shelf-dwellers love most about Neal Shusterman is his amazing talent for world-building.  Both in this series and in the Unwind series (soon to be four books long – seriously, if you haven’t encountered it before, get on it. Quick!) Shusterman manages to create totally engaging alternate worlds without having to resort to lots of explanation or tiresome, forced situations in which characters “discover” important facts about the world for the sole benefit of the reader.  Similarly, he creates teenage characters that, despite often having an obvious foible or flaw, are fleshed out and driven by motivations that are believable, if not always reasonable.  In addition, Shusterman is positively Mary Poppins-esque in the way he manages to squeeze so much content into ordinary sized books – on finishing one of his books I always feel like I’ve just slogged through a tome the size of Macquarie Dictionary and am continually surprised to find that all has been revealed within a scant 450 pages or less.

I’m both chuffed and frustrated to discover that there is a third book in this series – Everfound – mainly because my library doesn’t have that one either, and I can’t imagine I’ll be lucky enough to randomly find it for $1.75 and free shipping…although, one can always hope.

Yours in happy haiku-ery,

Mad Martha

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Read it if: The Name of the Star…..

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I just love it when I pick up a book after a single recommendation from a fellow blogger, and not only does that book turn out to be just the kind of thing I love to read, but the first in a series. That sort of thing really makes my stony countenance stretch with joy… *insert image of Bruce grinning forcefully here*….  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson is just such a book.

I have mentioned previously that I am a great fan of Ben Aaronovitch’s series about magic-wielding coppers in London, and this book seems to be following a very similar premise, except that it is aimed at fans of Young Adult fiction.  Essentially, main character Rory arrives in London from Louisiana to complete her final year of high school (sixth form for those in the know) at the same time as an apparent Jack the Ripper copycat killer unleashes the first gory murder in what turns out to be a historically-fairly-accurate-spree.  In an entirely separate event, Rory suffers a near-death experience, causing her to develop the ability to see ghosts.  These two happenings end up being connected in a very entertaining fashion, but I refuse to give any more spoilers.

name of the star

Read it if:

* you enjoy boarding school stories, ghost stories, murder mysteries, historical fiction, police stories, tales about famous killers, or any combination of the categories aforementioned

*you like books that can be read stand-alone, but are also part of a series

* you have ever taken an excessively large bite of an appetising dinner at a social gathering, and then immediately wished you hadn’t

*you like young adult fiction where the main character is perfectly ordinary and likeable, as opposed to riddled with angst, labouring under a ridiculously overblown attitude problem, carrying surprising amounts of emotional baggage for someone of tender years or a vampire

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and will be getting my greasy paws on the next in the series, The Madness Underneath, as soon as the paper-pushing gargoyles in the finance department approve my loan application for essential reading material.

Until next time,

Bruce