Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Pages: 336 (324 ARC)
Summary: Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her six best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim—their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend—changed everything.
One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft—the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world—hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death. But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.
Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions. Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.
And so begins the Neverworld Wake.
*Received ARC through Yallwest*
My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾
My Thoughts: Neverworld Wake is a YA Contemporary which brilliantly blends mystery with science fiction! The development and uncertainty surrounding Neverworld Wake delivers so much to this intriguing mystery story, that is both haunting and thought-provoking!
Even as I’m writing this review, I am so torn on how I should rate Neverworld Wake! I’m leaving it at 3.75 though am conflicted on whether I should bump it up to a 4, because there were things I really loved/liked, and some things I wish could have been better.
Regardless, I really did find Neverworld Wake such an interesting story, that was a very interesting reading experience from start to finish! And I do hope to check out Pessl’s previous book Night Film at some point & her future books, because the way she crafted the mystery of Neverworld Wake was just so great!
I can’t remember exactly how I heard about this book, but from both the summary and eerie + haunting cover, this sounded like such a great mystery read!
Told through a first person POV, we follow Beatrice Hartley, who is spending the summer after her first year at college, working at her parent’s ice cream parlor.
However, when an opportunity arises for her to head to an estate (Wincroft) and reconnect with her best friends from boarding school after the passing of her boyfriend Jim Mason, she is hesitant at first, but believes it’ll finally allow her to find closure.
Then after a close call that almost causes a car crash, a mysterious man arrives explaining to them they are now a part of the Neverworld Wake.
And by the end, only one person can live.
What I really loved about this novel, was the mystery, development, and exploration of the Neverworld Wake. The complexities to it kept me so invested in the story!
It essentially gathered Beatrice, Whitley, Kip, Cannon, and Martha’s experiences/life events, etc. and it all blended together to create a Neverworld Wake, where they each relive the same day for a certain # of hours.
The exploration of the Neverworld with how it related to each of them, the mystery they were solving surrounding Jim’s death, the intricate time/space aspects etc. were all explored so well and delivered at such perfect times throughout the book , that it never felt info-dumped or under/overly-explained.
There was a perfect balance of information given about it to keep you guessing, but also on track with how it evolves throughout Neverworld Wake.
Because its told through a first person point of view, it was definitely easy for me to get a lot of character/internal development from Beatrice. It even allowed for the mystery and uncertainty of the story to deliver plot twists & the story in general, in a way that was very easy to follow and allowed for each element of Neverworld to build in a brilliant way, where it never got confusing.
There were particular names/references which I personally related to classic stories (like Alice In Wonderland) through the introduction of a figure from their past at boarding school called the White Rabbit. For me that gave it another level of mystery, almost magical, and otherworldly sense that classic stories such as Alice In Wonderland offer.
Not sure if that was Pessl was going for, but I found that made Neverworld Wake even more interesting and immersive.
There was also the introduction to this fictional book called: The Dark House Of Elsewhere Bend by J.C. Gossamer Madwick, which really builds itself into the story as it progresses.
It added another level of mystery and added something unique to the story and overall it sounds like such an interesting book when you learn more about it!!
Neverworld Wake also really focuses on the plot, mystery, and interesting world/world-building, that there is little to no romance in the book (Only through Neverworld/general flashbacks Bea has about her time with Jim).
The mystery of the novel is built in such a way that honestly left me guessing each and every moment, because when you think you figure out how Jim died, you get even more pieces to the puzzle and I loved that!
They are all introduced and developed in a great way that doesn’t leave you lost as you meet more characters and find out how they connect to Jim’s story.
Now what I found to lower my rating were a couple of aspects such as writing-style, slow pacing, and word choice for a couple lines (planning to see if they are in the FC & share them soon!).
As mentioned above, were following the story from a first person POV, told through Beatrice’s eyes.
From the writing-style in general, I never really found an attachment to Beatrice as a character. I felt her personality didn’t shine through at all to be honest. While I was definitely invested in the story and what was happening, I never really found a point in the story where I ever really connected with her as a character, even though we were following her and getting a lot of her inner thoughts, etc.
The writing-style never really allowed her to stand out.
Because of that, it also made surrounding/side characters (maybe aside from Martha & a couple other characters) not entirely memorable.
Additionally, while we are told Beatrice knew these friends in high school and were inseparable, I never really felt there was a friendship dynamic between them & Beatrice at all (or at least through the writing and execution of their dynamics, I never really felt it in the story). I could definitely feel the relationship/friendship between all the friends, but never with Beatrice.
At points overall, the simplicity to the writing-style made elements of the story feel a bit generic and forgettable.
However I will say that the writing in my opinion, really delivered in developing and intricately expanding on the mystery, Neverworld Wake as a whole and how they tie together.
Neverworld Wake is an eerie and immersive YA Contemporary that focuses and shines on the plot, mystery, and complexities of the Neverworld Wake! Merging contemporary with science fiction, and mystery, Pessl’s novel delivers an intricate story with a plot that will leave you guessing till the very end!