Paranormal Young Adult
Balzer + Bray
Available January 22nd
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Nikki Beckett could
only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her,
taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt
that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t
know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her
dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.
answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her
his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has
been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in
the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.
and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their
journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more
deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it
means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.
A darkly thrilling sequel, Everbound is one of those stories where the title takes on a myriad of new meanings once we've experienced Nikki's search for Jack in its entirety, forcing us to tip our chins to Ms. Ashton in a nod of acknowledgement of a job well done. While this second installment could have easily fallen prey to many of the pitfalls that so often plague sequels given main couple Nikki and Jack are separated for nearly ninety percent of the story, Ms. Ashton adeptly prevents readers from getting frustrated at a familiar separation-of-main-couple-while-new-romantic-player-makes-his-move setup with her careful and beautifully executed handling of the various relationships. Emotional connections to both Jack and Cole are strengthened as we see new sides of them both, and we're riveted to Nikki's journey through the Everneath from first page to last, thoroughly impressed by Ms. Ashton's ability to so skillfully play with our hearts and minds.
The Nikki we first met in Everneath was a shell of her former self, keeping us at a bit of a distance until her time on the Surface restored the emotions Cole drained from her in the century-long Feed, but we start out Everbound with a tether to Nikki instantly in place, our hearts still reeling from the concluding events of book one. She possesses a strength we can't help but find admirable, holding herself together as much as possible even as an entire town sets the blame for Jack's disappearance on her shoulders with a meaningful glare or callous remark. She further earns our respect when Cole reenters her life and agrees to help her locate Jack in the Tunnels, refusing to play some of the games so many young adult heroines do when a second boy makes his affection for her known, instead remaining steadfast and true to Jack. Though her love for Jack never wavers, she's acutely aware of how her feelings for him pain Cole, and thus she makes it clear what role Cole has in her life and what role he doesn't with a consideration and thoughtfulness we don't see all that often.
Though Nikki's story is told from her first person perspective, Everbound is most certainly Cole's book, the complexity of his character deepened as we get not only a glimpse of his past, but also a quick look at Nikki through his eyes thanks to a quirk of the Everneath itself. Those who fear the development of a love triangle should rest easy though, because while we spend a great deal of time with Cole in this second installment, he is at no point a true threat to Nikki and Jack's relationship. Nikki's attachment to him is its own separate and unique entity, something that is strong and thriving but yet cannot challenge the love she feels for Jack, so we're able to enjoy his presence in Everbound without experiencing the lingering feelings of trepidation that he'll wrestle Nikki's affection for Jack away in his absence. Cole is a deeply fascinating character, the motivation behind any and all of his actions always deliciously murky, lulling us into thinking he's revealed something important about himself before we realize what a brilliant illusionist he truly is – only allowing us to see exactly what he intends for us to and absolutely nothing more.
Everbound is simply a delight to read, Ms. Ashton's ability to further a relationship between two characters despite one being physically absent while simultaneously developing a second relationship of equal yet drastically different emotional intricacy is hugely impressive. The end is something that brings a smile to our faces, not necessarily because we're happy, but rather as an admission to Ms. Ashton that in the game she's so masterfully playing with this series we are unworthy opponents, and she's currently bested us with a move in the final chapters we didn't see coming.