Review Detail

Firstlife Featured
Young Adult Fiction 2624
Firstlife
(Updated: January 21, 2016)
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
Seventeen-year-old Tenley "Ten" Lockwood has been sentenced to Prynne Asylum after she refuses to sign on to a place after her death. Firstlife only prepares someone for Everlife, where life really begins. There are two realms to choose from-Myriad and Troika. Both worlds will do anything to sign her on. If she doesn't make a decision? She'll end up Unsigned and sent to a limbo-like hell called Many Ends. She's caught in a vicious tug of war and doesn't know who to trust. The big thing though is she needs to stay alive long enough to make a decision.

What worked: This is one trippy ride into a dystopia world that is parts Orange is the New Black colliding with a twisty spiritual Hereafter. Ten is stubborn to a fault even when she's tortured to sign on to Myriad. If she doesn't sign on to Myriad, her father will lose everything. He's so determined to get her to sign on that he approves of the methods in the sadist prison-like asylum. The descriptions of the horrors of the treatment of not only Ten but other teens is grisly and troubling. Talk about parental control going overboard!

Ten's world is filled with manipulations, betrayals, liars, and death. Lots of deaths. Even after someone 'dies', they can experience a whole different magnitude of Hell in their so-called hereafter. No one is safe or to be trusted.

The worlds are complex and reminded me of a twisted spiritual realm. When someone dies, their spirit inhibits another body called a 'shell'. Showalter does a great job fleshing out not only the world Ten lives in but the other two realms. Neither realm is heavenly but each hold dark secrets. The twists of these worlds is dark and very intense.

There's also possible love interests. Killian who shows up in the asylum and tries to get Ten to sign with Myriad. Archer who does the same thing but only for the only side. Both have hidden agendas. The banter between all three of the characters reveals more than they let on.

I did love how Showalter tackled free agency. There's a quote where Ten is asked, "Do you want to choose the life your parents want?" Ten could have taken the easy way out and just signed but instead she fights to have the right of choosing for herself. This shows readers her inner strength and will power.

One issue I did have is how fast everything happens to Ten. There are so many betrayals, lies, hurts, and manipulations. There also seems to be no hope for any of the characters but if readers remember that the first life a person has is only the beginning? It makes more sense.

Everyone in this novel has hidden agendas--to have Ten sign over to their side. Only toward the end of the novel is it revealed who might in fact have Ten's best wishes at heart. But even then? Readers are left with doubts.

Fast-paced ride through a world where everything hinges on an important choice where indecision could be a deadly mistake.
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