Gena Showalter’s YA offering, Firstlife, is the pop ballad version of the age old battle between good and evil

Gena Showalter’s YA offering, Firstlife, is the pop ballad version of the age old battle between good and evil

So, I own a Miley Cyrus song.  An embarrassing one that is probably from a Hannah Montana album.  When my son saw it in my downloads the other day and began laughing his preteen butt off, I was ashamed.  But I rallied.  You see, See You Again makes me remember what it was like to be so young and uncertain in love, and, By Golly, it’s catchy.  It might be a far cry from high brow, but I enjoy it, so that should count for something.  I kind of feel the same way about this book.  It wasn’t a great literary work, and it might even have been a bad literary work in the scale of things, but I was engaged.  I’m a little embarrassed at how much I was entertained by it, but I did while away a few happy hours in this strange work, and that counts for something.  I gave it three stars.


Goodreads Summary



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, longtime 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 who 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 home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

My Thoughts

While Firstlife has sweeping themes about the battle between dark and light and the conflict between individual versus society, serious readers will find it difficult to navigate the fluff.  The first twenty percent of the book is full of unnatural conversational patter that relies heavily on references to testicles.  It is fast, and perhaps funny to the right audience, but it makes it hard to take the concept seriously from the start.  Add in the fact that the main character, Ten, seems more torn about her conflicted attraction to a super hot guy than the actual outcome of the battle for her soul, and this book becomes little more than a pop song rendition of one of literature’s most enduring themes.   Now, I’m a bit of a snob, and it hurts me a little to admit that, despite its shortcomings, I thought Firstlife was pretty engaging.  I didn’t understand the concept completely, but there was just enough there to keep me reading for answers.  There was a lot of suspense because, though I had my clear ideas about which side should win this fight, Ten was stubbornly uncertain until the end.  And while I didn’t care for all of the characters, I have to say that many of them were surprisingly dynamic.  I think the real star of the show was Ten’s nemesis turned ally, Sloan.  Overall, this was an entertaining, if not exactly memorable, read.  Language and innuendo make this most appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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