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Series: The Skinjacker Trilogy Vol. 1   
Annotation: When Nick and Allie are killed in a car crash, they end up in Everlost, or limbo for lost souls, where although Nick is satisfied, Allie will stop at nothing, even skinjacking, to break free.
Genre: [Fantasy fiction]
Catalog Number: #218462
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 313 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-534-48328-4 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-8209-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-534-48328-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-8209-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2005032244
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Following a fatal car accident, teenagers Nick and Allie collide with each other on the way toward the light and are shoved into an alternate state of existence. No longer living but not yet at the end of their journey, they land in Everlost, a color-bleached plane populated with child and teen spirits. There are rules in Everlost that new greensouls must learn to survive: keep moving, don't fall into a routine, don't seek the living, watch out for gangs, and steer clear of the McGill, Everlost's resident monster. Such rules are immortalized in the many books on Everlost penned by Mary Hightower, the leader of a large community of souls residing in the inanimate ghosts of New York's Twin Towers. Enamored of Mary, Nick begins to settle in, while Allie fights to escape. Although a strong setup for a unique exploration of life after death, of which there are brief glimpses, the story instead charges ahead in an increasingly zany action adventure that will particularly attract readers of the adventure, fantasy, and science fiction genres and that may herald a sequel.
Horn Book
Allie and Nick wind up in "Everlost" after they're killed in a two-car collision. They find themselves in a forest, watched over by a boy who teaches them a few key points: e.g., always keep moving to avoid sinking through the earth. The action-packed, fully developed plot moves quickly; the characters grow and change as they cope with their new existence.
Kirkus Reviews
Death isn't an easy subject to write about, but Shusterman handles it deftly, as he explores what happens to two children who are "lost" on their way "towards the light." Nick and Allie have never met, but both are involved in a fatal car accident. They find they are neither living nor spirit; they now exist in Everlost. Learning to cope with their new state of being, they arrive in New York City, where a band of lost children have taken up residence in the Twin Towers, which still stand tall in Everlost. Led by Mary, the Queen of Snot, threatened by the Great McGill and his pirate band, these children have come to accept that this is where they belong and will always be. But Nick and Allie know there must be something—somewhere—else, and they are determined to find out what and where that is. A quirky sense of humor pervades, which helps to lighten what would otherwise be a disturbing concept. But the overall message (that there is existence after life and purpose to that existence and a destination when one is finally ready for it) is one of comfort. For anyone who has lost a friend or loved one at an early age, this is a good read. (Fiction. 12-15)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 8 Up-Nick and Allie are killed in an automobile accident and meet as they are heading down a tunnel toward "the light." They land in Everlost, the space between the living and the end of the tunnel, and meet Lief, from whom they learn that Afterlights cannot walk where the living walk and that they cannot be seen or heard by the living. Allie is determined to go home, so she and Nick set out from the accident site in upstate New York and the safety of Lief's forest for New Jersey. Even though they have been warned about the McGill, a dreaded, evil monster, they slowly make their way, eventually arriving in New York City. There they meet Mary Hightower, who cares for Afterlights in the destroyed World Trade Towers, keeping them safe from the McGill and the Haunter. (In addition to children, buildings and objects can also cross into Everlost if they were much loved.) In their ensuing adventures, they are captured by the McGill and suffer a horrible fate before Nick discovers his true purpose in Everlost. Schusterman has created a world in which nothing is as it seems. As the teens struggle to make sense of this alternate afterlife, they also grow and develop as people. They learn to question those who have put themselves in power, and they begin to see what is truly important. Shusterman has reimagined what happens after death and questions power and the meaning of charity. While all this is going on, he has also managed to write a rip-roaring adventure complete with monsters, blimps, and high-diving horses.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Shusterman's (Full Tilt) enigmatic novel imagines a purgatory where only children go, with its own vocabulary and body of literature plus a monster named the McGill. After a car accident, teens Allie and Nick awaken 272 days later in Everlost. "It took nine months to get you born, so doesn't it figure it would take nine months to get you dead?" says the boy who discovers them, a nameless, lonely child they call Lief (an "Afterlight" who is 100 years old). In Everlost only the young exist, because adults "never get lost on the way to the light." The World Trade Center is there, too, home to Mary Hightower, a 15-year-old shaman of sorts and author of countless books (e.g., You're Dead—So Now What?). Shusterman uses excerpts from Mary's books (with an increasing sense of menace) to segue from one chapter to the next. Allie's flight from Mary's kingdom of "perfect routines," and her attempt to rescue Nick and Lief from a six-year-old spectral gangster lead her into a conflict with the monstrous McGill (with "sharp, three-fingered talons for hands,... its mismatched eyes wandered of its own accord"). Along the way, Allie learns the art of "skinjacking" (inhabiting the living), and Nick discovers a thing or two about the mechanics of Everlost, much to Mary's dismay. Shusterman's landscapes seem both familiar and ghostly, just the right mix for this fascinating limbo land that readers can only hope will provide the setting for more books to come. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Voice of Youth Advocates
The fates of teens Allie and Nick intertwine after a car crash in which both of them are killed but neither of them dies. They become trapped in Everlost, a world of dead spaces parallel to the living world and inhabited by children and teenagers who died but did not move on. Everlost has its own mysteries, dangers, and rules. Through their encounters with its other inhabitants, Nick and Allie gradually discover how to survive. Just as in the real world, there are bullies, like the menacing Haunter, and compassionate souls who believe that they know best for everyone, like Mary Hightower, self-appointed mother figure who gathers children to live with her in Manhattan's Twin Towers, ghostly buildings that now exist in Everlost. Feisty Allie learns that she can "skinjack," or inhabit the bodies of the living and control their movements, and gets into a contest of wits with the terrifying pseudo pirate, The McGill. Placid Nick spends part of his eternity trapped inside a pickle barrel and endures an eternal chocolate stain on his face (luckier than Speedo, who traverses Everlost in the wet bathing suit he was wearing when he died). This book is great reading, fast paced, and suspenseful but also full of humor. It is an adventure novel as well as an exploration into the meaning of life, death, and reality. Memorable characters, an unpredictable story, and an entirely new setting make it a must-read for fantasy readers and fans of Shusterman's other novels such as Full Tilt (Simon & Schuster, 2003/VOYA October 2003) and Downsiders (1999/VOYA August 1999).-Tina Frolund.
Word Count: 75,471
Reading Level: 5.6
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.6 / points: 12.0 / quiz: 109454 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:7.1 / points:17.0 / quiz:Q39930
Lexile: 860L
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z
Chapter One:

On the Way to the Light...

On a hairpin turn, above the dead forest, on no day in particular, a white Toyota crashed into a black Mercedes, for a moment blending into a blur of gray.

In the front passenger seat of the Toyota sat Alexandra, Allie to her friends. She was arguing with her father about how loud the radio should be playing. She had just taken off her seat belt to adjust her blouse.

In the center backseat of the Mercedes, dressed for his cousin's wedding, sat Nick, trying to eat a chocolate bar that had been sitting in his pocket for most of the day. His brother and sister, who sandwiched him on either side, kept intentionally jostling his elbows, which caused the molten chocolate to smear all over his face. As it was a car meant for four, and there were five passengers, there was no seat belt for Nick.

Also on the road was a small piece of sharp steel, dropped by a scrap metal truck that had been loaded to the brim. About a dozen cars had avoided it, but the Mercedes wasn't so lucky. It ran over the metal, the front left tire blew, and Nick's father lost control of the car.

As the Mercedes careened over the double yellow line, into oncoming traffic, both Allie and Nick looked up and saw the other's car moving closer very quickly. Their lives didn't quite flash before them; there was no time. It all happened so fast that neither of them thought or felt much of anything. The impact launched them forward, they both felt the punch of inflating air bags -- but at such a high speed, and with no seat belts, the air bags did little to slow their momentum. They felt the windshields against their foreheads, then in an instant, they had each passed through.

The crash of splintering glass became the sound of a rushing wind, and the world went very dark.

Allie didn't know what to make of all this quite yet. As the windshield fell behind her, she felt herself moving through a tunnel, picking up speed, accelerating as the wind grew stronger. There was a point of light at the end of the tunnel, getting larger and brighter as she got closer, and there came a feeling in her heart of calm amazement she could not describe.

But on the way to the light, she hit something that sent her flying off course. She grabbed at it, it grunted, and for an instant she was aware that it was someone else she had bumped -- someone about her size, and who smelled distinctly of chocolate.

Both Allie and Nick went spinning wildly, crashing out of the blacker-than-black walls of the tunnel, and as they flew off course, the light before them disappeared. They hit the ground hard, and the exhaustion of their flight overcame them.

Their sleep was dreamless, as it would be for a long, long time.

Copyright © 2006 by Neal Shusterman

Chapter Two:

Arrival in Everlost

The boy had not been up to the road since forever. What was the point? The cars just came and went, came and went, never stopping, never even slowing. He didn't care who passed by his forest on their way to other places. They didn't care about him, so why should he?

When he heard the accident he was playing a favorite game; leaping from branch to branch, tree to tree as high from the ground as he could get. The sudden crunch of steel was so unexpected, it made him misjudge the next branch, and lose his grip. In an instant he was falling. He bounced off one limb, then another and then another, like a pinball hitting pegs. It didn't hurt, all this banging and crashing. In fact he laughed, until he had passed through all the branches, and all that remained was a long drop to the ground.

He hit the earth hard -- it was a fall that would have certainly ended his life, had circumstances been different, but instead the fall was nothing more than a quicker way to reach the forest floor.

He picked himself up and got his bearings, already hearing the echoes of commotion up on the road. Cars were screeching to a halt, people were yelling. He hurried off in the direction of the sounds, climbing the steep granite slope that led up to the road. This wasn't the first accident on this treacherous strip of highway; there were many -- a few every year. Long ago a car had even left the road, flown like a bird, and landed smack on the forest floor. Nobody came with it, though. Oh, sure there had been people in the car when it had crashed, but they got where they were going even before the boy came to inspect the wreck.

This new wreck was bad. Very bad. Very messy. Ambulances. Fire trucks. Tow trucks. It was dark by the time all the trucks were gone. Soon there was nothing but broken glass and bits of metal where the accident had been. He frowned. The people got where they were going.

Resigned, and a little bit mad, the boy climbed back down to his forest.

Who cared anyway? So what if no one else came? This was his place. He would go back to his games, and he'd play them tomorrow and the next day and the next, until the road itself was gone.

It was as he reached the bottom of the cliff that he saw them: two kids who had been thrown from the crashing cars, over the edge of the cliff. Now they lay at the base of the cliff, in the dirt of the forest. At first he thought the ambulances might not have known they were here -- but no; ambulances always know these things. As he got closer, he could see that neither their clothes, nor their faces bore any sign of the accident. No rips, no scratches. This was a very good sign! The two seemed to be about fourteen years old -- a few years older than he was -- and they lay a few feet apart from one another, both curled up like babies. One was a girl with pretty blond hair, the other a boy who kind of looked Chinese, except for his nose, and his light reddish-brown hair. Their chests rose and fell with a memory of breathing. The boy smiled as he watched them, and made his own chest rise and fall in the same way.

As the wind passed through the trees of the forest, not rustling them in the least, he waited patiently for his playmates to awake.

Allie knew she was not in her bed even before she opened her eyes. Had she fallen onto the floor in the middle of the night again? She was such a thrasher when she slept. Half the time she woke up with the sheets tugged off the mattress and wrapped around her like a python.

Her eyes opened to clear sunlight streaming through the trees, which was not unusual except for the fact that there was no window for the light to shine through. There was no bedroom either; only the trees.

She closed her eyes again, and tried to reboot. Human brains, she knew, could be like computers, especially in the time that hung between sleep and wakefulness. Sometimes you said strange things, did even stranger things, and once in a while you couldn't figure out exactly how you got where you got.

She wasn't bothered by this. Not yet. She simply concentrated, searching her memory for a rational explanation. Had they gone camping? Was that it? In a moment the memory of falling asleep beneath the stars with her family would come exploding back into her mind. She was sure of it.


Something about that word made her uneasy.

She opened her eyes again, sitting up this time. There were no sleeping bags, no campsite, and Allie felt strange, like someone had filled her head with helium.

There was someone else a few feet away, sleeping on the ground, knees to chest. A boy with a bit of an Asian look about him. He seemed both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, as if they had once met, but only in passing.

Then an icy wave of memory flowed over her.

Flying through a tunnel. He was there. He had bumped her, the clumsy oaf!

"Hello!" said a voice behind her, making her jump. She turned sharply and saw another, younger boy sitting cross-legged on the ground. Behind him was a granite cliff that extended high out of sight.

This boy's hair was unkempt, and his clothes were weird -- sort of too heavy, too tight, and buttoned way too high. He also had more freckles than she had ever seen on a human being.

"It's about time you woke up," he said.

"Who are you?" Allie asked.

Instead of answering, he pointed to the other kid, who was starting to stir. "Your friend is waking up, too."

"He's not my friend."

The other kid sat up, blinking in the light. He had brown stuff on his face. Dried blood? thought Allie. No. Chocolate. She could smell it.

"This is freaky," the chocolate boy said. "Where am I?"

Allie stood up and took a good look around. This wasn't just a grove of trees, it was an entire forest.

"I was in the car, with my dad," Allie said aloud, forcing the scrap of memory to her lips, hoping that would help to drag the rest of it all the way back. "We were on a mountain road, above a forest...." Only this wasn't the forest they had driven past. That forest was full of tall dead tree trunks, with stubby, rotting limbs. "A dead forest," Dad had said from the driver's seat, pointing it out. "It happens like that sometimes. A fungus, or some other kind of blight -- it can kill acres at a time."

Then Allie remembered the squealing of tires, and a crunch, and then nothing.

She began to get just a little bit worried.

"Okay, what's going on here," she demanded of the freckled kid, because she knew Chocolate Boy was as clueless as she was.

"This is a great place!" Freckle-face said. "It's my place. Now it's your place, too!"

"I've got a place," said Allie. "I don't need this one."

Then Chocolate Boy pointed at her. "I know you! You bumped into me!"

"No -- you bumped into me."

The freckled kid came between them. "C'mon, stop talking about that." He started bouncing excitedly on the balls of his feet. "We got stuff to do!"

Allie crossed her arms. "I'm not doing anything until I know what's going on -- " and then it all came crashing back to her with the fury of --

" -- A head-on collision!"

"Yes!" said Chocolate Boy. "I thought I dreamed it!"

"It must have knocked us out!" Allie felt all over her body. No broken bones, no bruises -- not even a scratch. How could that be? "We might have a concussion."

"I don't feel concussed."

"Concussions are unpredictable, Chocolate Boy!"

"My name's Nick."

"Fine. I'm Allie." Nick tried to wipe the chocolate from his face, but without soap and water it was a lost cause. They both turned to the freckled kid. "You got a name?" Allie asked.

"Yeah," he said, looking down. "But I don't have to tell you."

Allie ignored him, since he was starting to become a nuisance, and turned to Nick. "We must have been thrown clear of the accident, and over the cliff. The branches broke our fall. We have to get back up to the road!"

"What would you want to go up there for?" the freckled kid asked.

"They'll be worried about us," Nick said. "My parents are probably searching for me right now."

And then suddenly Allie realized something. Something she wished she hadn't.

"Maybe they won't," she said. "If the accident was bad enough..."

She couldn't say it aloud, so instead, Nick did.

"We could be the only survivors?"

Allie closed her eyes, trying to chase the very idea away. The accident had been bad, there was no question about it, but if they came through it without a scratch, then her father must have as well, right? The way they made cars nowadays, with crumple zones, and air bags everywhere. They were safer than ever.

Nick began to pace, losing himself in morbid thoughts of doom. "This is bad. This is really, really bad."

"I'm sure they're all okay," Allie said, and repeated it, as if that would make it so. "I'm sure they are."

And the freckled boy laughed at them. "The only survivors!" he said. "That's a good one!" This was no laughing matter. It made both Nick and Allie furious.

"Who are you?" Allie demanded. "Why are you here?"

"Did you see the accident?" Nick added.

"No," he said, choosing to answer Nick's question only. "But I heard it. I went up to look."

"What did you see?"

The kid shrugged. "Lots of stuff."

"Were the other people in the cars all right?"

The kid turned and kicked a stone, angrily. "Why does it matter? Either they got better, or they got where they were going, and anyway there's nothing you can do about it, so just forget about it, okay?"

Nick threw his hands up. "This is nuts! Why are we even talking to this kid? We have to get up there and find out what happened!"

"Can you just calm down for a second?"

"I am calm!" Nick screamed.

Allie knew there was something...off...about the whole situation. Whatever it was, it all seemed centered on this oddly dressed, freckle-faced boy.

"Can you take us to your home? We can call the police from there."

"I don't got a telly-phone."

"Oh, that's just great!" said Nick.

Allie turned on him. "Will you just shut up -- you're not helping." Allie took a good long look at the freckled boy again. His clothes. The way he held himself. She thought about the things he had said -- not so much what he said, but the way he had said it. This is my place...now it's your place, too. If her suspicions were correct, this situation was even weirder than she had thought.

"Where do you live?" Allie asked him.

"Here," was all he said.

"How long have you been 'here'?"

The Freckle-boy's ears went red. "I don't remember."

By now Nick had come over, his frustration defused by what he was hearing.

"And your name?" Allie asked.

He couldn't even look her in the eye. He looked down, shaking his head. "I haven't needed one for a long time. So I lost it."

"Whoa..." said Nick.

"Yeah," said Allie. "Major whoa."

"It's okay," said the boy. "I got used to it. You will, too. You'll see. It's not so bad."

There were so many emotions for Allie to grapple with now -- from fear to anger to misery -- but for this boy, Allie could only feel pity. What must it have been like to be lost alone in the woods for years, afraid to leave?

"Do you remember how old you were when you got here?" she asked.

"Eleven," he told them.

"Hmm," said Nick. "You still look eleven to me."

"I am," said the boy.

* * *

Allie decided to call him Lief, since they had found him in the forest, and he blushed at the name as if she had kissed him. Then Lief led them up the steep stone slope to the road, climbing with a recklessness that not even the most skilled rock climbers would dare show. Allie refused to admit how terrified she was by the climb, but Nick complained enough for both of them.

"I can't even climb a jungle gym without getting hurt!" he complained. "What's the point of surviving an accident, if you're going to fall off a mountain and die?"

They reached the road, but found very little evidence of the accident. Just a few tiny bits of glass and metal. Was that a good sign or bad? Neither Allie nor Nick was sure.

"Things are different up here," Lief said. "Different from the forest, I mean. You better come back down with me."

Allie ignored him and stepped onto the shoulder of the road. It felt funny beneath her feet. Kind of soft and spongy. She had seen road signs before that said soft shoulder, so she figured that's what it meant.

"Better not stand in one place too long," Lief said. "Bad things happen when you do."

Cars and trucks flew by, one every five or six seconds. Nick was the first one to put up his hands and start waving to flag down help, and Allie joined him a second later.

Not a single car stopped. They didn't even slow down. A wake of wind followed each passing car. It tickled Allie's skin, and her insides as well. Lief waited just by the edge of the cliff, pacing back and forth. "You're not gonna like it up here! You'll see!"

They tried to get the attention of passing drivers, but nobody stopped for hitchhikers nowadays. Standing at the edge of the road simply wasn't enough. When there was a lull in the traffic, Allie stepped over the line separating the shoulder from the road.

"Don't!" warned Nick.

"I know what I'm doing."

Lief said nothing.

Allie ventured out into the middle of the northbound lane. Anyone heading north would have to swerve around her. They couldn't possibly miss seeing her now.

Nick was looking more and more nervous. "Allie..."

"Don't worry. If they don't stop, I'll have plenty of time to jump out of the way." After all, she was in gymnastics, and pretty good at it, too. Jumping was not a problem.

A harmonica hum that could only be a bus engine began to grow louder, and in a few seconds a northbound Greyhound ripped around the bend. She tried to lock eyes with the driver, but he was looking straight ahead. In a second he'll see me, she thought. Just one second more. But if he saw her, he was ignoring her.

"Allie!" shouted Nick.

"Okay, okay." With plenty of time to spare, Allie tried to hop out of the way...only she couldn't hop. She lost her balance, but didn't fall. Her feet wouldn't let her. She looked down, and at first it looked like she had no feet. It was a moment before she realized that she had sunk six inches into the asphalt, clear past her ankles, like the road was made of mud.

Now she was scared. She pulled one foot out, then the other, but when she looked up, she knew it was too late; the bus was bearing down on her, and she was about to become roadkill. She screamed as the grill of the bus hit --

-- Then she was moving past the driver, through seats and legs and luggage, and finally through a loud grinding engine in the back, and then she was in the open air again. The bus was gone, and her feet were still sinking into the roadway. A trail of leaves and dust swept past her, dragged in the bus's wake.

Did I...Did I just pass through a bus?

"Surprise," said Lief with a funny little smile. "You should see the look on your face!"

Copyright © 2006 by Neal Shusterman

Excerpted from Everlost by Neal Shusterman
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

In this eerie and atmospheric novel, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what might lie in between.

Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident—and their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to go. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous, place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.

When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

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