Author: M.G. Buehrlen
Genre: young adult, science fiction
Series: Alex Wayfare #1
Published: March 3, 2014
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5
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.
Alex is a freak. She’s nerdy and likes to tinker. She gets in a lot of trouble at school, despite being way smart, because she doesn’t read. She has no friends, not since she threw up on the cutest boy in church. Oh, and she has deja-vu induced visions of her 56 past lives.
I like Alex a lot. She’s selfish and impulsive and can be rather frustrating, but she’s also vulnerable and seems like she’s really trying to make sense of this crazy power that’s been dealt to her. She makes some massive mistakes, but I liked her anyway.
Alex can Descend into Limbo and use the markers of souls that have passed through to travel back in time. But while there are many Descenders, she’s the only Transcender. Her soul has lived 57 lives and she can visit her past as often as she likes. (Descenders can only Descend once per soul, but they can use any dead person.) This power is the key to unlocking a massive conspiracy involving Alex’s last life and her former...employer.
Like a lot of time travel fiction, it’s probably best not to dwell on the actual time traveling. There are a few holes and I’m still not sure how they arranged for Alex’s lives to be at every important point, but for the most part it’s well thought out. (Except for *spoilers* the last mission. One of those typically twisty, “you changed history because you were supposed to and we can’t correct this error because you didn’t correct it in the past that you’re creating now,” paradoxes. I don’t know if it’s really a problem but it was kind of eye-rolling after Parker going on and on about not changing the past.)
The best part of the book is the love interest. I freaking love Blue. The first date is beyond romantic and I fell head over heels for the boy along with Alex. When Parker took that world away, I wanted to cry too. Blue = Amazing. The worst part is integrating the contemporary elements with the sci-fi conceit. I feel for the nerdy loner, but too much time was taken up with the bitchy mean girl and the sweet jock and Alex’s sister’s cancer treatments. I wanted more time in Limbo, not a jealous girlfriend side plot or movie night with the fam.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare has some problems. There’s a ridiculous metaphor that really jumps out and some of the word choices are awkward. (Did we need to call Alex a wayfarer to drive the name home?) The blending of everyday teenage life with the sci-fi concept wasn’t smooth. The revelation halfway through that Alex can just bring skills back with her from the past felt awfully convenient. Still, I like this book a lot. It’s quirky and fun with surprising tension in the climax. The love interest has me following him like a lovesick puppy right there with the MC. I’m really excited for a sequel that will hopefully delve deeper into the few things I thought were missing.