By: Marisha Pessl
“Look around. It’s almost gone.
If only someone had told me that before. About life. If only I had understood.”
When I first read the synopsis for Pessl’s first YA novel about a girl and her friends who wind up in a purgatory like place and have to vote to see which single one gets to live it shot to one of my most anticipated of the year. It just sounded like something up my alley and like something that Pessl could knock out of the park and needless to say I definitely think she did!
After a senior year tragedy Bea hasn’t seen her friends for a year. She decides to go to a birthday party one night in large part to attempt to get answers about said tragedy. But then after a night of drinking the Keeper shows up at their door.
They are all clinging to the world between life and death. Only one can live and they have to vote.
The wake resets itself after eleven hours and, much like Groundhog Day, terrifying vote aside they can do whatever they want in those hours with no consequence and also- no end. Needless to say they spiral out of control. In the wake they can manipulate the world. They can die again and again.
They just can’t break free and the only option at ending it may be coming together and seeking the truth about what happened to Jim (Bea’s boyfriend and the groups one time leader) a year ago. But as the answers get closer and the world of the wake begins to rot things spiral even more out of control.
There were so many elements of this book that just flat out appealed to me. The idea of endless time. The creepiness of being able to move in the world while also being separate and solitary from it in a strange way. The idea that no one is coming to help you. A nightmare coming to life. Extreme group dynamics and psychological stress.
But also at heart how the little moments of life can add up to great loss but also how the small moments of kindness can ultimately help heal. I liked all the characters. Perhaps not so much in the beginning but as the story went on they grew on me and I found myself rooting for all of them to make it out in one piece. And the mystery of what happened to Jim was ultimately very well-done.
Also bonus point with me always for beautiful musings on life, living and the meaning of it all.
“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. The most we can do is hold out our hands and help each other across the unknown.”
I think Marisha Pessl (Night Film & Special Topics in Calamity Physics) is a great writer even when things don’t entirely land for me. But Neverworld Wake did and is definitely one of my top reads of the year. I hope Pessl writes more YA in the future.