Annotation: Nikki Beckett has spent the last hundred years in the Everneath: the dimension between Earth and Hell where the Everliving feed off the energy of those from the surface. As a Forfeit, Nikki’s energy went to her Everliving host, Cole, who convinced her that allowing him to feed off of her would ease the pain from her mother’s death. What Cole didn’t know, however, is that Nikki’s memory of her loving boyfriend, Jack, would make her a Forfeit unlike any other.
Personal thoughts: The concept of the protagonist in a young adult novel travelling, literally, to Hell and back is nothing new. I was very impressed, however, with how Brodi Ashton made the concept fresh and interesting in Everneath. The Persephone myth has always intrigued me, and I really liked the modern adaptation in this novel. I also thought that Nikki was a really interesting character with a surprising amount of depth. I found myself actually caring what happened to her and wondering how she was going to decide what to do with the little time she had left on the surface. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, as well as whatever Brodi Ashton comes up with next!
Plot summary: Nikki Beckett has spent the last hundred years in the Everneath: the dimension between Earth and Hell where the Everliving feed off the energy of those from the surface. Having agreed to allow Cole, a handsome and charismatic musician and one of the Everliving, to take her to the Everneath, Nikki became a Forfeit: someone not expected to survive the mental trauma of a Feed who eventually will serve as a source of energy for the entire Everneath. After the Feed is complete, Nikki is allowed to return to the surface, but only for six months until the Everneath returns to claim her for a life of torture and entrapment. On the surface, only six months have passed, but Nikki has lived for much longer than her sixteen years trapped in the Everneath where time moves at a different pace. Nikki has trouble remembering things about her life before the Feed, but the one thing she does remember is Jack: the loving boyfriend who helped her get through her mother’s tragic death in a car accident. While she was in the Everneath, everyone, including Jack, her father, brother and her best friend, Jules, assumed that Nikki had run away, unable to face the pain of losing her mother. Now that she has returned, Nikki wants to use the short time she has left to say her final goodbyes to her family and friends. One problem stands in the way of Nikki’s plan, however: Cole. It appears that Cole has his own plan for his Forfeit, something that would make Nikki a queen in the Everneath but would cost her soul. Will Nikki choose to join Cole, losing all hope of redemption for a chance to live forever? Or is there another way for Nikki to escape her fate in the Everneath, one that involves the love for Jack that kept her going for a century?
Review: A modern day re-telling of the classic Persephone myth, this novel from debut author Brodi Ashton makes for a riveting and romantic start to a new series for teens. The subject of Greek mythology and myths in general permeates the story, but in a way far less ostentatiously than other mythical adaptations for young adults. Upon her return from the Everneath, Nikki examines myths and the heroes they contain, something that is likely to spark a least a mild interest in teen readers to research the subject further. The author has done a good job of weaving modern elements in with the mythological aspects, turning the “Hades” character into a handsome, iPhone carrying bad boy and making Nikki, the Persephone of the book, grapple with typical high school situations like bullying and feeling like she doesn’t fit in. The plot also takes a few twists and turns that make for some unexpected surprises and maintain the reader’s interest. The novel ends with a very effective cliffhanger as well, and teens are likely to clamber for the sequel, Everbound, which is set to be released December 1, 2012.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Falling Under by Gwen Hayes, Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, Misfit by Jon Skovron, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs, Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini.
Themes: Redemption, mythology, Persephone, Hell, afterlife, sacrifice, death, high school relationships, love.
Awards/Reviews: Starred review from VOYA, positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.
Series Information: First installment in Everneath series. Second novel, Everbound, set to be released December 1, 2012.
Discussion questions:- Why do you think time passes differently in the Everneath?
- Why do you think that Nikki was able to survive the Feed?
- Do you think Cole had true feelings for Nikki? Why or why not?
- Do you think that Nikki’s father was too strict with her after her Return? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Nikki agreed to go to the Everneath with Cole in the first place? Was it the right choice? Why or why not?
- Would you have done what Jack did for Nikki?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel?