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.