Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Alyson Noel's Evermore

I've just finished reading a new book by Alyson Noel,an author I haven't read before, but who is really popular with the teens, and now I know why.

Evermore is the first book in Noel's new series, the Immortals, and it's really a compelling read. Here's the book trailer, to give you a taste of the concepts explored within her work:

I'll start my review by admitting that at first I wasn't so sure I would like this book, for a couple reasons.

First, let's put this right out there, since I am sure a lot of people have the same concern: I worried that Evermore was going to be really similar to Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series.

I've always loved the mythos of the whole vampire scene, and so I can appreciate some of the truly crazy popularity the Twilight books have generated--except that, having read all but the last one myself, I feel the books leave a lot to be desired. Don't get me wrong, I adore the character of Edward, and like a lot of fans I sloshed my way through the, "And then I ate a sandwich, and then I walked this way, and then I got in the car, and then I walked that way," narrative prose in the books, all those unnecessary and extraneous details that really should have been edited out, because that one character, Edward, is fantastic. But by the end of the series, as I said, I was loathe to read the final book, having gleaned from both the early reviews and my teen advisers that it was a hugely disappointing finish to a series that started out with so much promise. And when I saw the movie trailers, and what they did to Edward--well, I wasn't so keen to get drawn into all that again with a new series.

My second objection to the book was one that I still have a little trouble with: seriously, naming the lead character in a book about Immortals Ever? Could you hit me on the head with that hammer, again?

Thankfully, Noel's Evermore is a fresh and original work, which in no way borrows from the Twilight franchises but instead branches out to explore new ground.

The plot is deceptively simple: After Ever's family is killed in a tragic accident which leaves her the only survivor, Ever is "gifted" with strange powers that make her life a living hell: the ability to hear other's thoughts, deafening her until she drowns them out with her iPod playlists, as well as viewing their life auras.

Oh, and she has conversations with her dead sister.

Formerly popular Ever, in trying to distance herself from her former life, befriends perhaps the two other biggest "misfits" in school: openly gay Miles and the tragically gothic Haven, whose parents seem intent on ignoring her existence.

And then, Damen enters the picture--the new kid, the startlingly handsome, seemingly perfect guy who not only quiets the voices in Ever's head but who has no aura--and that's when the book really takes off.

Much of the book follows Ever through the grieving process as she tries to deal with both the loss of her family and her guilt over the accident which killed them, and her burgeoning relationship with Damen, who naturally is just full of secrets (but NOT what you think. Really. You need to read Evermore to find out who Damen really is).

Strong points in Evermore's favor:

I really found Ever's "gift" intriguing reading--the way she is overwhelmed by all the thoughts of those around her, as well as knowing the words to every book simply by touching it, and how she can see the actions of her teachers even when they are hiding in the bathroom with a flask, drowning out their own troubles.

I also approve of the way both Damen AND Ever are flawed, even damaged, people. Damen, for instance, makes a point of admitting he isn't so great when it comes to love and relationships. Ever matures as the book goes on, and I expect to see her grow stronger with each sequel--remember, this is just the first book in the series.

And I found the purposely dark and dramatic, sadly-ignored-by-her-parents Haven strangely compelling. Haven is someone I would like to get to know better. She is probably, next to Ever and Damen, the most interesting person in the book.

My biggest complaints about the book: Like I said, naming the lead character in a series about immortals Ever.

Also, wrapping up the Haven and Miles storylines with a tidy knot in the space of a few pages annoyed me, as I felt they deserved better than that. Haven, in particular, should not be pigeonholed so easily.

I would have enjoyed knowing much more about Damen's past--strangely, especially after lengthy tomes like Twilight, I felt that this book was too short in that respect.

And finally, I question the wisdom of giving Damen and Ever too many abilities, which, for me, detracts from the suspense the future of the Immortal series holds. I can't go into detail without giving too much of the storyline away, but I would have liked to have seen more vulnerability in these characters.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars, definitely recommended for the refreshing and innovative storyline (NOT just a Twilight clone) and the strong characterizations in the book.

Evermore left me wanting, well, more. I'm already looking forward to the sequel, Blue Moon.

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