Firstlife (Everlife, #1) by Gena Showalter
Published by Harlequin Teen on February 23, 2016
Format: Hard Cover
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Step one...you die.
ONE CHOICE. TWO REALMS. NO SECOND CHANCE.
Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live — after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.
In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, long-time enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she's drawn to isn't where the boy she's falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…
Firstlife by Gena Showalter wasn’t exactly what I expected from reading the blurb on the cover. Matter-of-fact, I had a hard time getting into the first part of the story, which revolves around a teen girl named Tenley or “Ten”. She’s been sent to an asylum for “treatment”. Actually, it’s her parents’ way of coercing her into choosing their faction. You see, in Ten’s world, the life she’s living is only her first. When people die, they go into the Everlife, where there are two factions – Myriad and Troika – who are fighting for ultimate control of the realm. If you don’t swear loyalty to a realm during Firstlife, once you die you are sent to Many Ends, a place rumored to be the equivalent of Hell.
While many people are quick to choose a side (usually the side their family has chosen), Ten has not. Her parents have been pressuring her to choose Myriad, and she hasn’t taken well to the pressure. She wants to choose a realm of her own free will. She knows they want her to choose Myriad, not because they are thinking of her best interests, but because they have been promised great wealth in their second life.
However, Ten has learned there is even more to the story. Both Myriad and Troika believe she has special powers that could turn the war in their favor. So, they send laborers to try and sway her choice. She isn’t fully aware of their presence at first, but once she realizes what they’re doing, she has to question everything that’s happening around her. She struggles to figure out which side she agrees with – Myriad, which speaks to her natural tendencies, or Troika, which encourages her to be a better person.
Through Ten, the reader experiences a world where no one fully values life. After all, this is just the first one: life truly begins after death. Firstlife is like a trial run or an opportunity to set up one’s Everlife with wealth and luxuries. But it’s also the factions’ opportunity to gain soldiers for the war. Whoever has the most souls has a better chance of winning. Sound familiar?
Like I mentioned before, I had to force myself to keep reading through the first set of chapters, which were kind of dark and vulgar. I wasn’t in the mood for a depressing story, but I kept reading. I didn’t really get into the book until after Ten escapes from the asylum. Yes, a spoiler, but the story couldn’t take place in only the asylum. It would gotten very boring and I think Showalter would have eventually lost everyone to the long list of tongue-in-cheek names to each asylum staff member.
After Ten escapes, things get very interesting. The reader, along with Ten, has to figure out who’s lying, which side she should choose, and what exactly Ten’s role is in the war. Both sides have a lot of expectations, but there’s little to point to any truth. But I love stories with twists and this one has them.
I gave this book 4.5 stars because of the slow start. I recommend it to anyone who loves Good vs. Evil stories. There’s also a bit of romance involved, but I won’t go into that too deeply. I’d hate to ruin the story. There is swearing, lots of killing, and references to rape, so it’s definitely for older Young Adult readers. If all of that resonates with you, definitely pick it up. I’ll be getting the next book in the Everlife series.