Evermore is the first book in Alyson Noël’s new YA series, The Immortals. Fittingly, considering the title, a lot of E words popped into my mind when I was thinking of how to describe it: Enchanting. Exciting. Enthralling. Enticing. All of them words, as well, of seduction and magic, which are two of the book’s main themes.
The third is loss.
The book is about Ever, who was the sole survivor of a car crash that took the lives of her parents and younger sister and necessitated her move from Oregon to California for her last two years of high school. At her aunt’s, Ever has withdrawn into herself, dressing to be invisible and making friends with the biggest misfits in her school, Goth-girl Haven and simpering Miles. Grief is not the sole reason for her new persona, however—Ever came back from her brush with death with the ability to read people’s emotional auras and learn their entire history with a touch. Compounding her fears for her own sanity is her little sister, who insists on visiting her almost daily from the other side. But when a new boy named Damen joins Ever’s class, she discovers someone whose aura she cannot read and whose voice and touch will dispel the sights and sounds of everyone else’s minds. Even as Ever resists her attraction to Damen, she is falling in love with him—even though she knows she has no idea what he actually is.
Overall, I really liked this book. It is in the current popular vein of Twilight or P.C. and Kristin Cast’s House of Night series, in that it’s a teenage paranormal story. Noël’s world doesn’t have vampires or werewolves (at least, not yet), but it does have psychics, souls, and mysterious and powerful immortals. She doesn’t couch spirituality in terms definitive enough to link it to one religion over another, but there is a spiritual aspect in that the reason Ever’s sister can come to visit and the notion of reincarnation are used as plot points in the story. I thought it was a slightly different take on our world, familiar enough to be deceptively comfortable and believably rendered where it diverged.
One of the strengths of this book is the way it forces you to empathize with Ever at all times. Noël did a masterful job of portraying the emotional black hole the loss of your entire immediate family would leave; I found Ever’s reactions to her powers and to her situation entirely believable. Even when I was mentally begging Ever to wise up and make the “right” choice, I couldn’t really blame her for not doing so. That is a common theme in YA literature, that agony as you watch the character make the wrong choices over and over again until they “grow up” enough to finally make what is obviously the better decision. A lot of the time, however, the writer is not able to successfully pull off a sense of necessity in the character’s motivation or mode of thinking prior to that turning point. But Noël did just that. I might have wanted Ever to make different choices in the course of the narrative, but I understood why she could not, and that made her decisions merely heart-breaking instead of annoying.
Ever and her sister were the strongest characters in the book. Damen was mysterious and inscrutable most of the time; while he was an enigma, he vacillated between interest and indifference too much (and with too little explanation later) to be as compelling for me as a reader as he was for Ever. Haven’s need for attention created drama throughout the narrative, but she seemed to have little personality beyond her need for attention, just as Miles seemed to have little beyond the snappy retorts of his “witty gay man” persona. I appreciated that Noël included conflict involving the friends that had nothing to do with Damen, but I wish the friends had had a little more depth.
Just a quick warning to anyone thinking of giving this book as a gift: it might be better suited to an actual teenager than a tween. Miles is openly homosexual, and sexual matters such as virginity or lack thereof are discussed frankly between the friends and between Ever and Damen. None of it is handled in an offensive or inappropriate manner, but if you’re more conservative or have a younger adolescent in mind, just be aware that those topics are included.
The villain of the story was lackluster, at best, and this affected the climax of the book. She showed very little beyond the “woman scorned” template that has been played out many times before, and her taunts and torments to Ever were so melodramatic as to almost be caricatures.
My other main complaint is that when Ever finally learns the whole truth about her powers and Damen’s identity and exactly what has been happening in her life for the past few months, it is a chapter that might as well have been titled “Damen Explains Everything.” Ever does not discover much on her own; she is simply told—the world is explained to her as it might be to a child. I thought this was a clumsy way to handle the exposition of details about the world as it stands for the immortals, and an insult to Ever as a character, that she is not allowed to work any of it out for herself. But after Ever learns the truth, she must still make the choice to use her new knowledge, or not, and I did like that she is given the chance to decide for herself what her destiny will be.
Noël’s prose is direct and easy to follow, and the world as seen through the eyes of Ever is an interesting place. In all, I thought this was an above-average read from the YA paranormal section.
Check out an interview with Noel at BSCkids.