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Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
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Neverworld Wake

by Marisha Pessl

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A YA book that weaves together mystery, fantasy, and science fiction.

In high school, Beatrice and her six best friends were the cool kids until the shocking death of their friend Jim (Bee’s boyfriend). One year later, Bee finds herself back at Wincroft estate where her and her friends spent so much time in their youth. Bee plans on finding out more in regards to Jim’s death, but when the night’s almost done she’s losing hope. Then a strange man knocks on the door changing everyone’s lives forever. ( )
  Lauranthalas | Oct 9, 2018 |
First published at Booking in Heels.

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. 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.”

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.

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.

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. ( )
1 vote generalkala | Aug 9, 2018 |
Pessl is one of the few authors that I've read all of her books. Night Film is my favorite, if that tells you anything. All of them are very different and interesting and this is no exception.

It's sort of like mashup of elements of Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day, and Before I Go to Sleep, but completely unique, smart and unpredictable. Pessl is a master at setting a tone and complex plotting. Kept my attention, fast read, and totally worth the time.

Love that she's dabbling in YA as it'll (deservedly) broaden her audience. If you're not into YA, don't let that put you off. Highly recommended. ( )
  angiestahl | Jul 30, 2018 |
I really liked Neverworld Wake. I liken it to the movie Groundhog’s Day but with a much more serious story. After all, this is not a story about one man stuck in a loop until he solves his romantic problems. This is a group of young adults enjoying their summer break forced into an unfathomable situation with dire consequences. It is a story about the facades we use even for our best friends and the secrets we keep even from ourselves. It is a story about death and life that is erudite and stimulating. I actually more than liked it.

Like Ms. Pessl’s other novels, Neverworld Wake is the type of novel in which it is best to enter into it cold. You need to view the story through Beatrice’s eyes, watch her former friends, hear their answers, and determine your own conclusions. Simultaneously, you need to experience the Neverworld as someone experiencing it for the first time with the millions of questions, disbelief, and confusion that coincide with it. Not only does this bring you deeper into the action, it also forces you to pay attention to every nuance. When you do that, you become absorbed in the more philosophical elements of the story and questions of right and wrong.

Like the Neverworld is to Bee and her friends, Neverworld Wake is not an easy novel. Answers are not given to you; Ms. Pessl makes you work for them. Plus, the subject matter is rather macabre, and the actions of the group at times are depraved. As time runs out for those in the Neverworld, suspense builds, making it read like a thriller but a much more philosophical one than one usually finds. This all makes for a story that is unlike most everything recently released. While I know it is not getting the greatest of reviews from others, all I can say is that Neverworld Wake confirms for me that Ms. Pessl knows how to write a compelling and unusual story. I cannot wait to see what she publishes next.
  jmchshannon | Jul 26, 2018 |
Beatrice "Bee" and her five friends shared a privileged high school friendship, entangled in each other's lives until the day her boyfriend, Jim, died due to mysterious and tragic circumstances. Afterwards, Bee lost contact with her friends. Now, a year after graduation, Bee returns to the Wincroft estate to see if she can discover what happened to Jim to find closure and make peace so she can at last move on. However, the night Bee returns, the remaining five are involved in a devastating car accident and are startled by a mysterious man "the Keeper" who informs them that while they are not dead, they are suspended, indefinitely, in the Neverworld.

Needless to say, this is shocking news to these spontaneous and risk-taking young adults, who are in disbelief and unwilling to concede to their situation. Forced to live their last day over and over again until their situation is resolved, Bee and the others finally decide to join forces to discover why Jim died, in hopes of saving themselves.

I really enjoyed this gripping teen novel, which involves time travel, survival in a neverending "Groundhog Day" state, and the concepts of life, death, and the place in between. The setting is creepy, spooky, and also a little sad, as the characters face their mistakes and the fear of the unknown with "The Keeper" constantly looking over their shoulders. A fun and interesting read. ( )
  voracious | Jul 23, 2018 |
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"A group of teens who all attended the same elite prep school reunite a year after graduation. After a night on the town, the teens are faced with an impossible choice--only one of them can live and the decision must be unanimous"--

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