I was actually planning on getting Neverworld Wake from the library, but every time I looked for it (after checking the online catalogue) it wasn’t there. I’d pushed it onto the TBR backburner when Charlotte sent me a copy for my birthday and I was suddenly grateful the library hadn’t had a copy after all – I’d only have had to buy a copy anyway. It’s that sort of book; a book you need to own.
Plot summary: Five friends – the beautiful elite at their exclusive prep school – reunite a year after graduation. After a night out, they narrowly avoid a collision with a car on a deserted road. Back at the mansion belonging to one of the girls, a storm rages and a mysterious man knocks on the door, announcing something world-shattering. The friends must make a choice: one of them will live, and the rest will die. And the decision must be unanimous.
So begins the Neverworld Wake. The nightmare. The nothingness. Time backbends and they are fated to repeat that day, but fears are now physical and memories come alive in horrifying ways. How will they vote? And will they be able to escape the Neverworld?
Rating for Neverworld Wake: * * * * *
I knew that I was going to love this book by the time we were about three chapters in. It’s a complete morbid mind-fuck with creepy strangers and shifting time loops. Nothing says, ‘this book is made for Hanna’ quite like that winning combination.I can pinpoint the very quote that made me realise I was going to love this book and it was this one:
“Each of you is, at present, lying kinda sorta dead on the side of a coastal road. This is due to a recent head-on collision with one Mr Howard Heyward, age fifty-eight, of two hundred eighty-one Admiral Road, South Kingstown, who was driving a Chevrolet Kodiak tow truck. Time is standing still. It has become trapped inside an eighth of a second like a luna moth inside a mason jar. There is a way out, of course. There is one means by which the moth can escape and time can fly irrevocably free. Each of you must vote during the last three minutes of every wake. You must choose the single person among you who will survive.”
It’s sort of like The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but for teenagers.
This isn’t some kitchy, cute Groundhog Day type thing.
But it’s not too teenager-ified. That was my fear; that Neverworld Wake would degrade into five teenagers bickering about who should survive for 350 pages. It’s not like that at all. Instead, they each have their need to be chosen at the back of their minds constantly and everything they do is a way to manipulate each other. It’s sneaky and clever and dark.
These five teenagers are trapped for a long time; the narrator doesn’t know how long, but it’s implied that it’s centuries. The time changes them as people – they learn new skills but also start to slowly descend into madness.
The ongoing experience of Recurring goes against the very heart of being human, and it is – I will tell you this without flinching – unbearable. The mind rages trying to disprove it. When it can’t, the brain breaks down with shocking ease. The psyche is fragile. It is a child’s sand castle in an incoming tide.
It’s written well. And I don’t just mean ‘…for YA.’ It’s written well, and at times it’s very poetic.
The slight negative, and why I’m willing to overlook it.
My only complaint would be that there are a few overlooked mistakes. They’re not huge and they’re not central to the plot, but if I can spot them during a first read-through, then surely an editor could have as well. It’s little things, like when all the characters state that they’ve never tried to commit suicide, but it told us several chapters back that one of them had. I actually thought at the time that it was an intentional plot point, that he was lying, but no – just a mistake. It happens a few times.
I also don’t really understand how or why it’s decided that investigating their friend’s death the previous year would help them with the vote. It’s fine, it was easy to get on board with it, but I didn’t see the thought process.
We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.
However. Whilst this would normally result in losing a good star or two from a rating, I just couldn’t do that with Neverworld Wake. This book kept me awake at night. Partly because I kept imagining The Keeper (played by Cristoph Waltz) stood in the corner watching me, but mainly because I could not get it out of my head. I was lying there, tossing and turning, unable to stop trying to unravel it in my head and figure out where it was going to go. Any book that can do that to me doesn’t deserve less than 5 stars.
So, no, it’s not perfect. But surely the way a book makes you feel is more important than a few irrelevant plot holes? Admittedly, this is not my usual shtick and normally I’d be jumping up and down with rage and a red felt tip. But I kept having to put the book down to stare blankly into space, just to process, before I could pick it up again.
It’s just that sort of book.
Read my review of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which is sort of the adult version of Neverworld Wake.