Allie and Nick are two teenagers, riding in two separate cars, when they are involved in a fatal accident. They move toward the tunnel of light, but something happens, and they bump into each other, and they find themselves falling away from the light...
When they wake up, they find themselves still on Earth, but everything is different now. They are in a place they come to call Everlost, a sort of limbo between the land of the living and whatever lies at the end of that tunnel of light, which is nowhere in sight now. They discover that there are "dead spots" in the world, places where people have died, and to them the dead spots are brighter and much more real. When they step into the world of the living, they slowly start to sink into the ground.
They meet a boy in the forest where they wake up, and because he's forgotten his name, Allie decides to call him Leaf. He's wearing old-fashioned clothes, and it appears he's been dead for years now. Leaf wants them to stay in the forest with him - he's so excited to finally have some company that he is reluctant to answer any of their questions. But Allie and Nick need to discover what's beyond the beautiful forest. They wonder if anyone else in their family survived the accident. They want to go home.
But there is a whole lot about the land of Everlost that they don't understand, and while at first it seems that they have nothing to fear because they are already dead, it isn't long before they understand that there are far worse things than death. They end up in New York City, where they find a refuge for lost children run by a teenage girl named Mary. She has taken it upon herself to watch over the children, and she has written numerous books full of advice and information about Everlost. Allie dislikes Mary instantly - she is condescending and seems to be holding back vital information. Nick, however, adores Mary - and Nick makes Mary feel emotions she hasn't experienced in centuries. Allie's determination to find things out for herself eventually lands Nick and Leaf in a lot of trouble, and then Allie is on her own, trying to set things right in a world where everything seems to keep going wrong.
This was a gripping audiobook that really held my attention. The world that Shusterman has created is complex and has very real rules. Allie and Nick are thrown into a horrible situation together, and they are so different that they continually butt heads. But they do learn things from each other, as well as from their pal Leaf, and even though they're dead, they continue to learn and grow. The antagonists are not truly evil - they have their own justification for their actions, which may be misguided, but they are not wholly bad. The book is the first in a trilogy, and while there are some things left unresolved at the end, there is a conclusion that will satisfy readers while leaving them eager for the follow-on book, Everwild, which was recently released.
Despite the fact that Shusterman has written tons of books, and he is so popular among kids and teens at my library, this is the first of his books that I've read. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.
Books in the Skinjacker trilogy:
Everlost (#1 in the Skinjacker trilogy) by Neal Shusterman; narrated by Nick Podehl (Brilliance Audio, 2009)
Also reviewed at:
The Book Muncher: "I quite enjoyed the entire setting of Everlost and thought it made for a fantastic backdrop to the story, which was just filled with all sorts of adventures as well as challenges specific to Everlost."
Confessions of a Bibliovore: "Besides the world-building, I loved the characterization. Shusterman never forgets that his characters are children, although they’ve been nine or twelve or fifteen for a long, long time."
Reader Rabbit: "Everlost is a fast thrill ride that will keep you flipping the pages"
Wondrous Reads: "Neal Shusterman has managed to create an enchanting, terrifying world where nothing and everything makes sense"