I am an avid reader and in turn a writer. I believe one of God’s greatest gifts is written word and active imaginations to Authors, Playwrights, and Screenplay writers alike. Each Lent I try to start or finish a new book, in an effort to read and pray more than watching television. Around this time last year, I was in a popular bookstore over spring break and looking for a book to read on the flight back to school. I picked up the book Everlost by Neal Shüsterman. I began reading it, but soon got caught up in school assignments and the book ended up on my shelf. However, two weeks ago after finishing “Shutter Island” I picked Everlost back up, looking for my next “spare time book.”
My senior literature teacher suggested, “Always carry a book with you, you never know when you might get the chance to read.” I have tried to keep this habit in practice. These books come in handy when you are waiting at the DMV, Doctor’s Office, or maybe you take public transit. I keep a book in my backpack and read any chance I get; whether I arrive early before my shift starts at work, or before class, or maybe on my lunch hour or breaks.
Everlost explores a place that children from the age of 5-15 go immediately after death. As a Catholic I believe in Purgatory, the waiting room for heaven. However, no one really knows what it looks like or how it functions. This book is well written and very creative. It plays with the idea that, this place between life and afterlife contains kids called “afterlights.” Afterlights are spirits of those who did not get to where they were going; either heaven or hell. They appear here how they looked when they died, eternally bound in the clothes they wore; whether it is pajamas, a wet bathing suit, or chocolate smeared across their face. Main characters Allie and Nick, died in a head on collision, when they each flew through the windshield and collided with the other, knocking them off the path toward the light at the end of the tunnel and into Everlost. When they enter Everlost they deny that they are truly dead, but learn to accept the fact. They decide to go home and see their families, wanting to know if they survived the crash.
During their adventures in this eerie place, they battle against “gravity fatigue” where “afterlights” begin to sink through the ground toward the Center of the Earth to wait until the end of time. They are also joined by a boy who has forgotten his name, but they dub “Leif” because they found him living in a lush forest in Everlost, but a deadwood in the living world. On their way home they meet Mary Hightower, the Everlost expert who has written so many books on the subject, any “afterlight” would need eternity just to read them all. She helps these lost souls find their niche. As the plot unfolds Allie discovers that “afterlights” easily fall into patterns that they continue to do for all time, unless snapped out of it by someone else. She follows her gut instinct and continues to question Mary’s culture she has built inside the ghost of the Twin Towers in Manhattan. She runs an orphanage where kids are welcome to stay, play, and find their niche only for the price of their nickel. Each kid enters Everlost with a coin in their pocket.
Everlost continues to explore the idea that Everlost is not the place where you are supposed to end up, but a place you go when you didn’t get to where you were going. Nick finds the solution to getting where you were going, but is stopped by a few characters that have tricked other souls into being stuck here in Everlost. Shusterman plays with the idea that souls have a job or mission they need to complete before they are ready to leave. Some souls want to stay in Everlost and keep all the souls they can with them. Tricking them out of eternity. As a Catholic I was not offended by any of the afterlife ideas. However, Shusterman does suggest that maybe what you do in Everlost might affect on where you go after.
I think what I enjoyed most of all was the variety of settings the characters explore, from a lush forest, small town America, Manhattan more specifically the Twin Towers, a creepy meat locker, a haunted pirate ship, and Atlantic city. It is very descriptive, has its twists and turns, and even surprised me with the one of the reveals at the end. (I love when a plot surprises me) I am now looking for the sequel Everwild which picks up right where this one left off.
Also called, “The Skinjacker trilogy” if you like life/death novels and books written for the teen or young adult audience pick up your copy today. Neal really knows what he is doing. Let me leave you with one last note…
When I die, I am holding onto my nickel!