This book reminds me of why I like to read middle grade and YA novels–they are less likely to suck. This novel has adventure, danger, mystery, creepy settings, good characters–basically everything you might hope for from a book written for adults, except for the kissing (only one kiss, and it’s chaste.)
The novel begins when the main characters die, and meet their new sidekick, Lief, who is also dead. They wander through the Everlost, an in-between place populated by children who died but have not yet “got to where they are going.” You’d think that this afterlife would lack tension, since they are already dead, but they can still feel pain. They can be trapped for centuries inside pickle barrels. They can fall through the earth and never find their way to the surface again. This afterlife has a creepy darkness to it that I think most middle-school people will adore. I liked it too.
I also liked that the main characters Allie and Nick have well-rounded personalities which guide their actions for good and ill. Allie is brave, and a bit bossy, and she is both rewarded by and punished by these traits. Shusterman doesn’t shy away from letting her have it when she overestimates herself. All of the characters change at the end, and while the degree of change is slightly forced, it also felt plausible.
I’m trying to come up with things I didn’t like about this book, and I’m having trouble finding any. If you want to read a dark adventure about kids trying to find their place in the afterlife, this is a great one. Actually, it might be the only one. It has monsters and sweetness and tragedy and betrayal and all kinds of cool stuff.