Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

If you were to ask my sister where she gets all of her book recommendations, she would say, without hesitation, that they come from me. In fact, Molly will rarely pick up a book on her own without my recommendation. (I think she may have a dependency problem.) Firstlife by Gena Showalter was a book that Molly bought on a whim because, if I remember right, she thought the cover was pretty. She’s right, the cover is pretty, but the story inside, it is disturbing and definitely not pretty.

Tenley “Ten” lives in a world where your Firstlife, the life that all of us are living right now, is just the staging area to your Everlife. In this world, your family, friends, and life experiences are all cemented once you choose your Everlife. Ten is seventeen when the story begins and she hasn’t made her decision. There are two choices: Troika and Myriad. Her parents have both signed with Myriad and expect Ten to do the same. Ten isn’t so sure and because of her indecision, her parents send her to prison, giving the warden permission to use any means necessary to convince Ten to choose Myriad. While Ten is imprisoned, both Everlife realms send Laborers, Everlife representatives whose only job is to convince Ten to sign with their side. When Ten breaks out of prison during an uprising, she and her assigned Laborers have one goal: for her to stay alive long enough to make her final decision. Once she does, there is no changing her mind.

There were a lot of things I appreciated about this book. First, Showalter did a wonderful job making both Troika and Myriad seem appealing to the reader. I had formed an opinion very early on about which side I would have signed with, but the author had me switching sides pretty consistently until the end of the story. Second, I didn’t mind the love triangle that the author had in this book. It wasn’t just the “oh, if I choose that boy I’ll break the other one’s heart...poor me” situation that a lot of young adult authors seem to shove their protagonists into. This triangle was “oh, if I choose that boy, I’m going to have to kill the other one someday.” I liked that twist. I also liked the personality quirks that Ten has. She’s obsessed with numbers, and it isn’t just because her name shortens to Ten. It’s just how Ten’s brain is wired, and the author made me believe that was the case. Finally, Showalter did not leave the reader hanging off of a cliff at the ending. I’ll tell you this: Ten does make her choice, and it is literally on the last page. While sometimes I like cliffhangers, I was glad that this particular novel gave me some closure.

While there were many positives to this story, there were a few things that unfortunately dragged me out of it. One, while I believed the premise of Ten’s family sending her to prison to be kept safe until she made her choice, I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that they allowed the warden to brutally torture Ten on a regular basis. The family kept saying that they did it because they loved her, but I just couldn’t believe they did. Two, throughout the story, the reader discovers why the two Laborers are fighting so hard to win Ten to their side. While I realize the author needed stakes for the Laborers, I didn’t quite buy into all the reasons why the Laborers said they needed Ten on their side. Lastly, and I’m sorry that I cannot explain this too thoroughly without spoilers, some of the events that Ten has to fight through after she escapes from prison seemed a little too fantastical. Yes, I understand this is a fantasy, but really, how much does the girl have to go through?

The negative plot points aside, I really enjoyed this story. I’m looking forward to the second book, which is due on February 28, 2017. And yes, the second one has a pretty cover, too.

Over the past week, Emily has realized that she has a tendency to review mostly young adult fantasy novels, which are mostly written by women. While there is nothing wrong with that, she would love your recommendations on what to read next. Leave a comment below and tell her what she should read next!

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