First, I have not read anything else by Gena Showalter. I've heard some pretty great things about her other books, and I own them, but this one just drew me in with the cover and the synopsis, so I went for it first. I do plan to read her other series, and I liked the writing overall, but I did have some issues. There won't be any spoilers in this review.
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
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, longtime 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 who 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 home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…
Ten as a main character is annoying. There is no nicer way to say it. She has several habits that make her this way--her counting tendencies that all but disappear after the first few chapters, her jokiness that makes little sense half the time, and her overt lack of awareness. There are times that she is funny, but more often than not, her humor feels forced and falls flat. In addition, she uses language that takes you out of the world of the story, modern turns of phrase or slang just didn't fit in. Unless this is our world, and every piece of evidence we're given leads the reader to believe that it isn't. Her family history isn't told in a way that connects you to her, and her personality makes it difficult to feel sorry for all that she goes through in the story.
The male characters, because yes, this is a love triangle, were interesting though. Honestly, they're what kept me reading. Well, one of them anyway. One of the males is true to life, and not a caricature--which is the best way to describe most of the character in this books. And when Ten is with him, his realistic qualities bring her back to a more relatable and believable level. The other character is a little outlandish and just too much most of the time. I'll stop there because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who decides to give this a try, but the characters just didn't work for me overall. The side characters, Ten's parents, the guards at the facility where Ten is held, the friends of the two male characters, they're all just a touch too far to be plausible. While plausibility doesn't make or break a character for me, it depends on the world, and in a world that is supposed to be as dark and focused on deeds toward an "afterlife" as this one, it just didn't work.
On the topic of the world, this book follows Ten as she tries to decide between two options for her afterlife (well, three if you include that "nothing" region that is akin to Hell). Both sides are vying for her to choose them because she's special to them for various reasons. It's definitely a special snowflake situation, but that's fine, I have no issues with that trope. Instead, it was difficult to keep track of which of the afterlife choices was which. They were basically one in the same except one has more sun? I think? The chapters open with quotes that relate to each of the worlds, but again, they're pretty surface level and shallow, and contradict what we're told more often than not.
I really enjoyed the premise of this novel, that there are known afterlife options, and that the population has to work toward them, and choose. The concept that there is a war going on between the two was also compelling, but the pacing and characters were lacking. The worlds weren't built fully, and it was hard to care one way or the other. I appreciate what the author tried to do, I just didn't love it.
Overall, I gave Firstlife 3/5 STARS.
I don't know if I'll continue on with the series or not, but I do still intend to pick up Showalter's other series, Alice in Zombieland--like I said, I already own them. Have you read anything by this author? What did you think?