Book Review: “Neverworld Wake” by Marisha Pessl

Cover of "Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl.
Cover of “Neverworld Wake” by Marisha Pessl.

Happy December, everyone! I hope that your November was filled with good reading, and that this December will be just as good if not better!

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Neverworld Wake” by Marisha Pessl! Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:

“Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim – their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend – changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft – the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world – hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake.”

Content Warning:

This book contains explicit descriptions of suicide, murder, drug use, and discussions between characters about depression and other mental-health-related matters. If you are uncomfortable with this content, you might want to skip reading this book.

Plot Development: 1 out of 5 stars

I thought that the plot elements of the Neverworld Wake could be better explained, as well as how exactly the voting would work. Because of the supernatural elements of the mysterious man showing up and the rest of the main cast going through a “Groundhog Day” loop of reliving the same time and date, again and again, I thought there would be more investigation into that. Unfortunately, this never happens.

Additionally, there is no real sense of urgency to get back to the real world with the main cast. Sure, they’re terrified that they’re on the brink of death, but they also just take this time to exploit being between life and death (and also with them always reliving the same day every time they “die” during their time in each wake) to do anything and everything, including eventually investigating Jim’s death to see if it was really suicide. I wish there was a time limit for how long they could be in the Neverworld Wake before they had to vote (perhaps, for example, a week’s worth of “wakes” before everyone would automatically die) to give more urgency to the plot. The lack of urgency definitely hurt the plotline overall.

Character Development: 1 out of 5 stars

None of the characters were entertaining for me to read. I felt that Beatrice and all of her friends lacked any real camaraderie with each other despite knowing each other for a while and their shared connection with Jim (whether it be as a friend, classmate, girlfriend, etc.). The plot twists involving various characters’ roles in Jim’s death felt unsurprising or made little sense thanks to the book’s lack of foreshadowing.

I also could not really relate to any of the individual characters or sympathize with them. None of them felt engaging at all to read, including the main heroine Beatrice and Jim.

Overall, I’m rating this book 1 out of 5 stars!

This book had many interesting concepts, but it just did not mesh well in its execution. I also felt that the characters fell flat, which did not help keep the story engaging enough.

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