It is a very rare occurrence when I finish up a book and immediately feel the need to start reading it again. This was one of those rare occassions.
Going into this book I didn’t have very high expectations. A few years back I read Night Film and though it wasn’t bad, I was left rather disappointed about several aspects of the story. What those things were, I couldn’t tell you. I never wrote a review, but I remember that I was left disappointed by the hype surrounding the book and had decided to swear off any other books by Marisha Pessl. Enter Neverworld Wake and its intriguing synopsis and my resolution was demolished.
Following five teenagers a year after the death of one of their group, we see secrets start to unravel concerning the death after a mysterious old man shows up and tells the five friends that time is stuck for them. He then tells them that the only way out of this continous time loop of the same day can only be undone by making the hardest of decisions. And so begins the journey of these five teenagers and the unraveling of all the secrets tied to the death of their friend.
I don’t know what it is with me this year and mystery thrillers, but its become my thing and after a month of not reading one this one quenched my thirst for one. Read in less than 9 hours because I just could not put the damn thing down, the book starts off a bit slow. Or at least it feels slow. You get some background information on the main character, the death of this friend is talked about and you see that this main character suspects her former best friends know more about what happened that day than they’ve lead on. And so she meets with them and normal stuff happens and sure it’s only two chapters in, but something about it has you thinking, “this is dragging a bit, isn’t it?” And just as soon as you’ve thought that, BOOM. The first bombshell. Out of nowhere.
After that first bombshell all the pieces started coming together and boy was it a wild ride. I didn’t know who to trust. I thought I knew what direction it was all heading in and then my theory would hit a snag until it got to the end and I sat there like, holy shit. Sure, the very ending was predictable, but the stuff before it???? I was, as the children say, shook.
My favorite aspect of the book has got to be the pace of the story. Time is stuck for these individuals and they keep reliving the same 11.2 hours and so we see that it takes who knows how many times reliving the same day before they even come to terms with what is happening. It takes them forever, and when I say forever I mean in terms of having those 11.2 hours taken into perspective not because the story was dragging, but it takes them forever to figure things out, to work their way through certain scenarios. I personally found those moments of reliving the same day just to find a way to get past a certain situation or person to be real. They’re stuck in the same day over and over again, doesn’t mean they’re going to get through it with extreme ease. That’s just not realistic. I’d go more in depth about what this all refers to, but that’d be a spoiler!
The plot itself wouldn’t have worked as well as it did had it not been for the characters. Their characteristics were such a prominent part of propelling the plot forward and though you had 6 characters to learn about, I thought the author did an excellent job of giving you just the right amount of information about them. You never get to 100% know them, if you did you wouldn’t be so untrusting of them throughout the story, but you get just the right amount. And though they could have been fleshed out a bit better, especially our main character, a part of me feels like it wasn’t incredibly necessary for the story that was being told. Which again, if you’d known these characters inside and out, it would have been a lot easier to figure out what happened concerning that death.
Were there things I thought didn’t work? Sure. One of the characters got a bit grating what with their constant use of the word “child” and I’m still not sure how certain elements of the ending came to be considering we don’t see much of it because our main character isn’t really part of it. Part of me is bothered that we don’t know how that all really went down, but it’s not detrimental to the enjoyment of the story itself. There’s other small things here and there, but again, it wasn’t a huge deal for me.
Overall I just really loved this book and despite it not being absolute perfection I gave it a 5 star rating because it was so incredibly good. It was the right amount of drama and mystery. It had me at the edge of my seat and the ending was satisfying. I haven’t read a YA book in a while that I’ve loved so it was refreshing to read something that was good! I feel this undying need to pick it up and read it all over again just to see if I can catch things the second time around. And maybe I won’t pick it up again today, but I sure as hell will sometime soon.
Quick note: there is a trigger warning on this about suicide. It’s mentioned several times throughout the story. Nothing in great detail, but it is mentioned.