Monday, December 17, 2007

Adventures In The Afterlife

I can't say I was ecstatically looking forward to reading Everlost by Neal Shusterman. I thought his book The Schwa Was Here had an interesting premise but didn't stay on task too well, so I'd never read anything else by him.

Then I saw him in October at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, thought he was very engaging and interesting, and decided I would give his work another try. But Everlost, his newest book, is about dead people. Generally speaking, I find books about dead people tend to be a bit maudlin. The writing often manipulates readers emotionally. I don't care for being manipulated, so I avoid them.

If I hadn't stumbled upon Everlost at the library, I would have probably missed it altogether, which would definitely have been a shame. If you can get past the "Boo hoo, everybody's dead in this book" factor, Everlost is a very good adventure.

What Shusterman has done in Everlost is create a fantasy world that just happens to be in what we'd call the afterlife. Certain things as well as certain humans pass over into this fantasy world, known as Everlost. The things have to have somehow engaged intense human feelings during their 'lifetimes.' The humans have to have not 'got where they were going.' Our two main characters, for instance, were strangers who died in the same automobile accident on page two, bumped into each other in that long tunnel with the light at the end, and went careening off course into Everlost.

And then, while attempting to figure out what's going on in their new world and visit their homes in their old one to make sure their family members survived the accident that killed them, they begin to have adventures.

This world is very well done. Every character in it is just marvelous. We have powerful protagonists of both genders so this is a good read for both boys and girls. It's written in the third person with point of view characters that shift smoothly.

Everlost isn't a heavenly place by a longshot, so some younger readers might find it a little anxiety-inducing. Yet it's also clear that Everlost isn't all there is to the afterlife. There's still a potential for heaven, as well as a potential for hell. This book about the dead actually ends hopefully, even though none of our major characters have yet gotten where they're going.

Everlost came out in 2006. It's another one of those books I was only vaguely aware of, if that. I'm surprised I didn't hear a lot more about it. It's that good. However, Universal Studios has bought the screenrights and Shusterman (who is a screen and scriptwriter as well as a novelist) will be writign the screenplay. So somebody knew a lot more about it than I did.

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Blogger Reading Fool said...

I liked Everlost, but it wasn't my favorite of his. Still, reading your comments made me think back on the book. The scene that comes back most strongly is the one in the barrels. ::shudder:: Shusterman is a Lays potato chips kind of author. You really can't stop at one (or two). I still want you to read The Dark Side of Nowhere and his alternative-version fairy tales. (Okay, to be fair, I only read Red Rider's Hood, but I really enjoyed it and want to read the others, if I could just stop buying new books so I could catch up on the old ones I missed!)

10:25 PM  
Blogger gail said...

I'm definitely interested in trying more now.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Gruppie Girl said...

You may also like Mary Modern.

Everyone is alive, but many were once dead. Thank you DNA.

12:53 PM  
Blogger gail said...

Mary Modern by Camille DeAngelis

What intrigues me about the description of this book is that with just the smallest amount of tweaking it could have been a kids' book!

2:02 PM  
Blogger Reading Fool said...

That does sound like an interesting book, Gruppie Girl! Gail, thanks for the link to its author page/description.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Jen Robinson said...

Gail, we seem to be on a weird overlapping reading loop lately. I just read Everlost on a flight last night, though I may not get around to reviewing it right away. I decided to read it after heading Shusterman speak at NCTE, and finding him an engaging speaker who is clearly working hard to engage readers. And as Reading Fool says, I doubt I'll stop at just one, either. I'm particularly curious about his newest title, Unwind.

11:26 PM  
Blogger gail said...

Wow, Jen. You read it for the same reason I did--you were impressed by hearing Shusterman speak.

The importance of good speaking skills, charm, charisma, etc. for a writer just can't be exaggerated. I hope this is covered in writing graduate programs!

7:52 AM  
Blogger Jen Robinson said...

That would certainly be a smart thing to cover in graduate programs, Gail, but I have no idea if any of them do. But considering that we were only 2 of many people in the audiences for these recent talks of Shusterman, I suspect that he's garnered a lot of readers this way.

10:49 AM  

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