Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Title: Firstlife
Author: Gena Showalter
Series: Everlife, Book One
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 22 February 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received this ARC from Harlequin Teen Australia for review.

Step die.


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…
(summary from Goodreads)

Firstlife is a high action page turner but I just couldn't connect.

I have mixed feelings about Firstlife. Honestly, I didn't really like it, but I could see how I could have and I really, really wanted to. I feel bad that I didn't like it. It's not that it's a bad book, at all, but that simply, it's a case of not being my kind of thing. Firstlife frustrated the ever living daylights out of me. A number of times I wanted to give up and mark it DNF. But I do my very best to never DNF books, especially ARCs. So I made myself keep reading. That was a feat because I wanted to give up on it really early on. By the 30% mark I was pretty sure there was no hope of me liking this book. By the 60% mark I knew it for sure and it was a struggle to get it finished so I could write this review. Here's what I did like about Firstlife. It's certainly an original story and the world Showalter created is interesting and really, kind of cool in a scary way. The concepts of Firstlife and Everlife intrigued me and Showalter's world building of Myriad, Troika, the Many Ends, and the Land of the Harvest were imaginative. Firstlife is well and truly action packed too, which was great at times. It's the Mad Max: Fury Road of books! (I didn't like Mad Max: Fury Road, FYI.) It is one bloody fight and action sequence after another, and while it was heart-racing and page turning at first, it soon becomes commonplace. Action like this doesn't always appeal to me. Not if it's action for action's sake and doesn't prove meaningful or worthwhile. This book is not for the lighthearted, let me tell you. Showalter doesn't hold back on the violence and pain required for truly kickass action. I'm definitely not dead set against violence, but I think Firstlife started delving into the realm of shock factor. Oh look, bloody fight. Oh look, torture. Oh look, bloody fight. Oh look, more torture. Oh look, murder. Oh look, even more bloody fighting. It got to a point that I think genuine development was sacrificed for more gruesome or scary action. Troika and Myriad, especially Myriad, go to extreme lengths to get Ten to 'sign' with them because apparently she's special. But how and why? Is she really, truly? Characters seemed unsure of that. She means something different to each realm, so how is that possible? These sorts of questions and more aren't answered in Firstlife. Maybe they'll come up as the series continues, but there should've at least been glimpses now and there wasn't. Ten is special because Troika and Myriad say so, got it? I wanted more.

And so this is what I didn't like about Firstlife. The story and it's characters didn't develop. Ten is a major factor in my disliking this book. Sure, she keeps getting up and trying to kick butt but I couldn't get a hold on her motivations. She doesn't want to choose Myriad because her parents want her to and have imprisoned her to be relentlessly tortured in hope of forcing her to choose. Okay. But she doesn't want to choose Troika instead because...well. I feel that's the question. Showalter describes Ten as simply wanting time, not to feel pressured, to make the right decision, find where she truly belongs. Which is all well and good but here's the thing. Ten knows her choice. Subconsciously she always had, right from the beginning. By just after half way through, she actually had made her choice but she refused to act on it. And so all the shit that goes down? All the whining about not choosing? Felt pointless to me. I could not care because I didn't understand the why. Showalter created this story around Ten not choosing and to me it felt very tenuous. So I couldn't connect. The other reason I couldn't connect is the romance. This is the thing that really made me want to DNF Firstlife. And maybe I'm being harsh because I'm so over this kind of romance. Ten kept trying to act tough and untrusting, unwilling to give herself over to love, yet she instantly falls for Killian. Just, urgh. All the wishy-washyness over Killian irritated me to tears. Every time she succumbed to him I felt myself disliking Ten and this book more. It made me want to toss Firstlife, literally, from very early on. But I couldn't because a) I was reading it in a hospital waiting room, b) on my precious iPad, a c) as stated, I try not to DNF ARCs. But this is where it's more "it's me, not you". I couldn't like Killian. Brooding bad boys are one thing, but psycho boys? No. Showalter tried to prove Killian had a heart of gold but that doesn't work for me. Having reasons for being psycho does not change the fact that you're psycho! I was not feeling the 'love' between Ten and Killian, no Siree. What redeems Firstlife, slightly, is that is has no love triangle. Yay! It seems it might go there, but I'm thankful it didn't. That would have definitely been the last nail in the coffin. Now Archer is a character I did like. He was funny and honest and I really liked his friendship with Ten. That I could believe in. I was also intrigued by Archer's relationship with Killian, but this again went underdeveloped, unfortunately. It didn't center around Ten, you see. There are a lot of secondary characters that add to Firstlife and mostly they fall into two categories - selfish and could have an intriguing story, or selfish and purely evil. All of them don't develop into much either. Firstlife is definitely Ten's story. And as I'm not a fan of Ten, well.

Firstlife just wasn't for me. There are some pretty awesome elements and it will definitely appeal to many readers. But for me, it succumbed to romance tropes and shock value. I wanted more depth of story and character.



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