Author: M.G. Buehrlen
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Science Fiction, Young Adult
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For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.
And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is about time travel. Naturally, I had to read this. It’s funny, because looking back, this book had quite a lot of things that normally make me want to put it down as soon as possible, but totally worked for me this time. Or maybe they didn’t work for me still, exactly, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to them because the story was just so charming and adorable. M.G. Buehrlen’s writing is really good, because even though her storytelling is relatively simple, I thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions and imagery. Sci-fi wise, this book may not be the best in its genre. I don’t think the world building is all that realistic at all, really, but it’s okay, because the character development mostly makes up for it. Also, the time travel is pretty awesome.
Alex is such an endearing protagonist. She’s not popular – doesn’t even really have any friends – but she doesn’t mind it that much. I loved her relationship with her family, who were loving and supportive and very anti-YA-book-family (Alex’s parents are exactly there for her, for instance), and especially her relationship with her sister Audrey, who has leukemia. Alex will pretty much do anything for Audrey, and it was so sweet to read about. I think Buehrlen provided an excellent basis for Alex, and it’s refreshing to read. I also really like Alex’s growth throughout the story, which was the most important thing to happen. She mostly grows to accept and love herself – nerd glasses and lack of friends and everything – with the help of her past lives and time travels. She reminded me a little of Geek Girl‘s Harriet Manners.
Furthermore, I loved the history, and learning about those different areas in time. It’s obviously not a historical novel, but I loved it. (Also while I love history, I’m not very good at it, so the lack of details didn’t bother me at all.) However, my least favorite trope in YA is instalove, and while that is not exactly the case in The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, I still wish Alex hadn’t become so obsessed with Blue after just one night together. I’m glad that this did take a step back from Alex’s character growth and her time travel shenanigans. And I guess I could forgive her, because Blue is, essentially, her first friend ever. But I do wish she had spend a couple of days with him instead of one. What I do really like was that their relationship is essentially like the “romance” in View Spoiler »Hancock « Hide Spoiler, because I liked that. Even if I’m not sure how it works.
And that last part brings us to the world building, which, in all honesty, was pretty poor. The time travel confused me greatly, which is weird considering how simple it was. Perhaps it was too convenient for me. Alex is able to travel back to her previous lives by accessing Limbo, but how she does this is still a mystery to me. Also, I just don’t find it believable. What I did like was that Porter was not a teenage boy, as I was expecting (because hello, YA tropes) but actually a sixty-something man View Spoiler »who is still alive and who still knows Alex from her previous life! Loved that aspect. « Hide Spoiler. Throughout the story, we never know whether we can trust him or not, especially because everything is a big mystery to Alex, and I liked that a lot. He acts like he is her mentor, but I’m glad Alex is still suspicious of him. You can’t always trust strangers, kids.
Finally, I wish we had gotten a little more from the main antagonist, but he is really interesting, because he is basically View Spoiler »Charles Magnussen « Hide Spoiler in the third season of BBC’s Sherlock, if slightly less creepy. (I don’t know about you, but that dude scared the hell out of me.) I think it’s interesting that the lack of plot, if you want to call it that, totally worked for me. I liked that this book focused mostly on Alex’s growth, because I really liked her as a protagonist. Still, I wish the focus on the time travel part was better, because I like my time travel to make sense to me. Fun, quirky and adorable, I am so glad I read The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, even though the lack of substantial plot and world building kept me from falling in love with this book. I think especially younger YA readers will really enjoy it.
“Of all the things that I could possibly screw up, I had to go and delete entire generations from existence. With my first kiss.”
“Are they talking about me and Jensen, and the social atrocity he committed last Friday? It completely slipped my mind after View Spoiler »traveling back in time, robbing a train, and, you know, getting shot. Twice. « Hide Spoiler“
“I mean, we’re going to have to endure some rumors if we’re going to be friends, right? And some of them are going to be stupid. It’s just the way it goes. But I’m willing to risk it.” He lifts an eyebrow. “Are you?”
I bite my bottom lip. I’m honestly not sure if I am. “Can I think about it and get back to you?”
He kicks my shoe. “No. We’re friends. Deal with it.”