Review: Everlost

  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Series: Skinjacker #1
  • Published: November 10, 2009
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
  • Pages: 336 pages
  • Source: Required Summer Reading for 2012

 Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident, but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to go either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth. 
When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

So, I am aware that this book is old, but it was my assigned Summer reading for this year. I was hoping to get Graceling, but so many people signed up for it that I got pushed onto this novel. I decided to read it now because I'd rather spend my summer reading time reading and reviewing novels that I want to read, not ones assigned to me. Frankly, this was a waste of a read in my opinion and I don't understand why so many people recommended it to me highly, but keep in mind that this review is just my opinions, not the opinions of the general consensus.

 The book begins with a car crash caused by a stray piece of scrap metal on the highway. Two occupants from both collision don't make it out alive: Allie and Nick, a boy covered in chocolate while preparing to go to a funeral in his last seconds of life. After a nine-month sleep, almost like an incubation period, they finally wake up in Everlost, a limbo stuck between the real world and whatever is beyond it. Soon, they discover that Everlost isn't exactly what it seems. It's full of kids from all different eras of life, stuck wearing what they were wearing moments before death. Yes, that means that poor old Nick will have chocolate covering his face forever. The eldest kids are of ages 14 or 15 and no adults have ever made it to Everlost because it is believed that adults always know where they are going, so they always make it to the end of the tunnel instead of getting lost and thrown into Everlost like many kids do. In Everlost, an individual cannot stand in a single place for too long or they will sink into the center of the Earth, so if they were to stand still, they must stand only on "dead-patches." These patches are places that people have died or things have gotten knocked down. For example, the Twin Towers are Mary Hightower's queendom and I do love this aspect of the novel. Shusterman is keeping a tragedy alive in our hearts and minds in Everlost.

Shusterman had such potential with this plot, but I felt like he didn't take it anywhere worth reading. There was just so many contradictions and oddities in this book that I had trouble wrapping my head around some things, but I did love the book passages at the end of some chapters that were there to explain specific aspects of Everlost through the words of mother-figure and writer Mary Hightower. They cleared many things up for both the reader and the characters in the novel. I'm going to try to explain my distaste for this book without revealing any spoilers. 

First of all, Everlost is sort of considered a Heaven-type place for kids since the kids didn't make it to Heaven and were stuck in the in-between. This was a place for good because they certainly were not in Hell. And this place was supposed to last forever because it was good. However, if it's a "good" place, or the "closest to heaven" that these kids will get, why are there monsters and evil kids? And if it's supposed to last forever, why does the McGill, the most feared monster of all, say that one day the world is just going to blow up and all souls in Everlost will be free to flee around the universe? I hate contradictions within novels!

Another thing that I had a problem with was the novel's lack of detail. It's such a big deal not to fall to the center of the Earth because that means that a kid would presumably be lost forever. However, near the beginning of the novel, there was a moment where Allie was pushed into the ground and it wasn't that descriptive. This is supposed to be such a momentous thing because it's so scary, but it just sort of happened and she just described being sunk to different levels of her body and then she felt like part of the ground. Brief descriptions like that stink and detail at such unique moments like that would be awesome! Same with the skinjacking. Allie's able to skinjack people, but by the way Shusterman described the process, it just happens. She simply leans forward and it just happens. Poof! She suddenly inhabits a living human! It doesn't work that way. It's made out to be such a complicated thing, but the process has so little detail to it that you feel jipped as a reader. It was such a potentially unique aspect of the novel that could have been executed so differently!

What confused me most is one of the main unspoken rules of Everlost. It's basically that the harder you want to remember things, the quicker you forget and the more you want to forget something, the more likely you are to remember it. While I thought that aspect of the plot could go somewhere as well, it just served to cause many contradictions throughout the novel. Barely anyone in Everlost remembers their name unless their surrounded by people to remind them who they are. Only when they move beyond Everlost may they remember their true name, so many people have odd names like Hammerhead or Pinhead because they can't remember their real ones. Yet, near the end of a novel, characters spoke the never-before-mentioned birth names of other characters. How is that possible? It makes no sense with the plot!

My other issue with the novel was some of the characterizations. Mary's supposed to be such an angel, but an angel doesn't lie. Yes, she lied to help out her kids and to keep them in Everlost, but in the process, she lied about a lot of things and hurt a lot of kids by keeping them from reaching their final destination point when they decided that they were ready to move on. She lied, manipulated, and kept things from people thinking that it was better for them, but she never gave them the choice to know what was truly better for them. It was her way or the highway. In her process of being good, she hurt a lot of people, so she's not that good of a person after all. She has good intentions, but they're not right. 

Allie also reminded me of a girl who would take no suggestions or listen to anybody. I understand that's typical of a 14 year old so that aspect of her characterization was spot on, but it was incredibly frustrating to like her at times. Nick seemed blinded by an infatuation with Mary that blossomed out of nowhere and the McGill and Vari are two completely different stories. Vari is a 9 year old boy that has been 9 for 146 years and is Miss Mary's most trusted assistant. He is obsessed with power and is incredibly conniving, but Shusterman chalks this up to the usual moodiness that a 9 year old experiences. No, no, that makes no sense at all! A 9 year old is moody, yes, but they're not evil! Moodiness does not translate into evil and weird attempts to maybe somehow have a hand in making someone competing for the affection of a respected individual disappear!

Lastly, there's the McGill. He just doesn't make much sense to me. He literally gets upset and feels hurt if people aren't talking about him and fearing him because he loves being a legend. He likes that people are scared of him and likes being the scariest creature in all of Everlost, so why is he so compassionate to Allie? He claims he's so smart, but he so easily falls into her trap and follows her directions on how to skinjack without any hesitation. He can treat a prisoner kindly, but he cannot treat his highest associate, Pinhead, kindly, even when Pinhead rescued him from the open embarrassment of defeat at a pier on Atlantic City. Not to mention the fact that such a scary creature actually lives his life off of fortune cookies. In Everlost, fortune cookies are all true, but the McGill follows the advice of fortune cookies as if it is his religion. As the book progresses and the McGill continues his weird mood swings, his identity is eventually revealed. Once such a thing happens, he suddenly goes from evil to good. Just because he doesn't have the same exterior doesn't mean he doesn't have the same interior. He did a complete 360 in a matter of seconds. That is so incredibly unrealistic for any human being, not just a character in a book.

Then, of course, there's the romance in the book. If you've been following me for even the shortest period of time, you know I love a good romance, though it is not an essential for me to read a book. In all honesty, I feel as if this book would have been better without Shusterman's attempts at romance. Nick's infatuation with Mary began out of nowhere and Mary was so adamant about not even acknowledging the smallest tidbit of feelings for Nick. Then, after a long journey, when Nick returns, she's suddenly kissing him and claiming that she's in love with him. And at the very end, they're "enemies" because they're fighting for two separate causes, but they're still in love. I just don't get it. It was such an unnecessary romance because it makes no sense and you're not enemies with someone you're in love with!

The list goes on, but I'm going to stop because this review is agonizingly long and I just want to retire this novel to my bookshelf. This novel had a lot of potential, but just wasn't for me. However, I do know plenty of other people that like it. I am giving it 2.5 stars for its originality and its level of uniqueness because it's not a story similar to anything else that I have read, besides the whole limbo aspect between the great beyond and the living world. However, I believe that it's full of plot holes, contradictions, and unecessary plot twists that took a lot of substance away from the novel. 

This is the first book in a series, but it can certainly stand alone. Perhaps the series will further detail a lot of the loose end problems that I've had with its prequel, but it's prequel disinterested me so greatly that I do not think I'll be picking up anything written by Neal Shusterman for a while. This is the type of read that you can get through on a rainy day. Not amazing, but something to get you by, though it's not something I'm running to re-read or even look at again anytime soon. 

What I have discovered is that many of Shusterman's novels are some sort of picture and then his name along the top and right side on a red banner. If he has a design going for him, stick with it. However, this cover was a bit creepy to me and I'm not one for creepiness, so I would not pick it off the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble. While it may be eye-catching to those who interpreted the cover as that of a mystery instead of the creepiness that I sensed, I was not the least bit impressed by it.

 2.5 stars



  1. Wow! wonderful review..glad you kept it real.

    ~Shane @Itchingforbooks
    new follower

    1. Thank you for the follow and the comment! Didn't want to mislead anyone, but this book frustrated me beyond belief!

  2. I wasn't a fan of this book. I had a hard time even finishing it.
    GREAT review!

    1. Thank you (: and yeah, I have no clue why so many people told me it was amazing and I would love it. I feel like I was kind by giving it a 2.5...