Six teenage girls wake with no memories. One of them is in a brick mansion, her blonde hair as shiny as her shoes. The others are in a cabin, their names tagged to the inside of their pants. Their heads, shaved. Slashes mark the cabin wall like someone has been counting.
Hundreds of them.
There’s wilderness all around and one dead adult. The girls discover her body rotting somewhere in the trees. As the weeks pass, they band together to survive the cold, wondering where they are and how they got there. And why.
When an old man arrives with a teenage boy, the girls learn of a faraway island called Foreverland where dreams come true and anything is possible. But Foreverland is dead. In order to escape the wilderness, they’ll have to understand where they are.
More importantly, who they are.
Foreverland is Dead is the sequel to Annihilation of Foreverland and you don't necessarily need to read it to understand this follow-up. This one actually has me a little torn as I read them with significant time between them, it took me a bit to remember and put pieces together. I think this book could be read either way--I feel the suspension and the mystery would be far more intense if you hadn't read Annihilation of Foreverland, but I also think that what happens at the end of the book is much clearer if you read the first. So with that pseudo disclaimer, onto the rest of the review.
First let me start by saying that everything I've read from this author has been excellent. At this point, if he wrote it, I pretty much recommend it. Annihilation blew me away (you can read my review here) and I was excited to learn about the other half of Foreverland. The pacing is perfect. Despite being 300 pages, I got through it in 5 or so good hours. Bertauski has a tendency to be very straightforward in his writing that makes it for fast reading. He's fantastic at building atmosphere and certainly demonstrated that in Foreverland. His characters are real, you can latch onto them, understand them, relate to them. You care about them and what happens to them.
So, the writing is excellent, great pacing, great atmosphere, great characters. Why the four stars? It sure sounds like a five.
The four is a personal reaction. While I raced through Annihilation, which left me feeling exhilarated and grinning for hours with the rush of a great mystery and an ending of just deserts, I felt more compelled through Foreverland. The overall tones of the two books is very different, and there's a looming sense of desperation and hopelessness almost omnipresent in Foreverland. Even at the end, something told me not all was quite right in the world. And Bertauski reminded me he likes twists with one right at the end of Foreverland that left me feeling strangely brokenhearted. I almost got my happy ending, or at least one that I could live with, and then then twist that sort of twisted my heart. There is a third in the works that I'm sure will answer the twist, but the overall feeling of sadness I was left with just keeps me from 5 on this one. I'm old fashioned and like my happy endings.
Still, the craftsmanship of this book leaves no doubt that it's a highly recommended read and I'm eagerly awaiting #3.