cover image Firstlife


Gena Showalter. Harlequin Teen, $18.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-373-21157-9

Showalter (the White Rabbit Chronicles) addresses religious extremism, conformity, and war in this first book in her dystopian Everlife series. Seventeen-year-old Ten, short for Tenley, lives in a world where two Everlife (afterlife) realms, Troika and Myriad, fight to win over souls, using torture and bombs to force citizens' conversion. Ten has been locked in an asylum for refusing to choose sides. She is a particularly special soul, and both Troika and Myriad send their best and most attractive young men to persuade her that conversion to their realm is paramount, often using romance as a seduction tool. Troikan parallels to Christianity are apparent through the use of numerical symbolism, a divine trinity, and an emphasis on one's Everlife over one's Firstlife. Showalter's rapid plot shifts and action sequences can be disorienting, and Ten's struggle to protect her future and her individuality within the grip of an oppressive society fall in line with genre conventions. Yet the story's use of religion as a framework is fresh and layered, giving the novel an epic sweep. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. Agent: Deidre Knight, Knight Agency. (Feb.)