Zoe J review Firstlife by Gena Showalter.
Most YA heroes and heroines in adventure stories need only focus on keeping their one and only life. But in Tenley Lockwood’s world, everyone is guaranteed two chances. Before their first death, inhabitants of Earth, or “The Land of the Harvest,” must choose between two realms to spend their everlives. As a person can’t even decide on a future college or career, I can appreciate the amount of pressure such a decision would entail. This stress follows Ten throughout her story. And, if she dies without choosing a realm, she will end up in the terrifying “Many Ends.”
For Firstlife, Gena Showalter created a great concept that could have had better execution. At the beginning, we find Ten stuck in an asylum where families can send their children as punishment. While the goal of escape is clear here, the story’s purpose becomes more muddled as the novel progresses. Showalter also misses the opportunity to really develop her world; readers barely get any history of the realms. Furthermore, important plot points seem to be brought up and never elaborated on, and some events seem unrealistic even for a fantasy novel.
As a character, I found Tenley to have a definite personality. She did, however, have a somewhat-annoying obsession with numbers; for example, she uses the word “zero” instead of swearing. For a love interest, we get the cliche “dark and brooding” Killian. His enemy Archer, who might also be in love with Ten, seems kinder and a bit more realistic. And throughout the story, these characters often suffer from awkward dialogue. Still, the plot remains the biggest issue with the novel.
Firstlife does have potential, and maybe some of its problems are resolved in the rest of the series. But personally, I would recommend searching for something else.