YA Review: The Forevers

Title: The Forevers
Author: Chris Whitaker

This is a UK-set high school novel with a difference – the world is probably ending, and the characters are living their lives against the clock. It’s a powerful idea, following a group of teenagers as they navigate an uncertain future in a world that is slowly falling apart.

The asteroid has been headed to earth for ten years, and so far every attempt to divert it has failed. The final mission might succeed, and life might go on – but what if it doesn’t? Will the teenagers of West have the chance to live before the end?

Mae, a girl with a reputation as a troublemaker, searches for the truth about her friend’s death. Did Abi Manton kill herself, or did someone in town have a motive for murder? As normal life begins to unravel, Mae uncovers her classmates’ secrets, finding friends, allies and enemies in unexpected places.

With this setup, readers might expect a complete collapse of law and order, or a sense of apocalyptic panic, but that’s not story the author sets out to tell. As the end of the world approaches, the characters definitely become more brave and less law-abiding, but they still go to work and school, practice for concerts and make plans for the final school dance. This could have been a book about what people do when their actions don’t have consequences, but if the final mission succeeds they will all still have to get up in the morning and navigate the rest of their lives. The threat of success is a clever twist, adding balance to the story and allowing normal life to continue as the clock counts down.

I didn’t get on with the book at first. The author introduces a large cast of characters, and jumps straight into their relationships, rumours, crushes, and cliques. To begin with I had trouble remembering who was who, who was rumoured to be sleeping with whom, and who liked or hated the protagonist. While Mae’s sister and her best friend are well drawn and rounded, the other characters were harder to tell apart, and I found myself struggling to care about their stories.

The plot develops slowly, with fragments of evidence about Abi’s life and death surfacing among all the other secrets and lies. Every character is hiding something, and it feels as if Mae is constantly sidetracked by the scandals she uncovers in her classmates’ lives. There is an answer, and all the pieces fall into place in the end, but not before we’ve heard about every other scandal in town.

Mae is an interesting protagonist. She doesn’t think twice about breaking and entering, particularly in the expensive part of town. She has no problem stealing from the rich kids to support her younger sister and the grandmother who is struggling to look after them, and she’s always top of the suspect list if anything happens at school. She’s learned not to care what other people think of her, and her only soft spot is for her sister. As the book progresses, she finds herself caring about the people around her. As she finds out more about their lives, she begins to understand that life isn’t plain sailing for anyone – even the families in the biggest houses in West.

The asteroid that might tear the world apart ends up bringing the teenagers of West closer together. If you’re looking for a slow-burn murder mystery with a large cast of friends and enemies, or a high-school gossip story with a twist, this is the book for you.

Have you read The Forevers? What did you think of the story? Would you be a Forever in the same circumstances? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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