I have to admit that off the bat the synopsis of The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare wasn’t something that called to me. I don’t usually go in for anything that involves reincarnation or any kind of time shenanigans: mainly because stories I have encountered that involve such things in the past are either very predictable or become so confusing and tangled that the plot either seems to break or not hold water. But hey, I have this blind trust in Strange Chemistry that comes from liking all the books I have read by them so far, and so I picked up The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare without thinking too much about it.
And oh boy was I surprised. Within two pages I was hooked, within ten I already loved Alex and how the story was narrated. By fifty pages, this book quickly became one of those I just couldn’t put down (which wasn’t healthy for mine or my brother’s bedtime as I was being his audiobook for this one!). Alex is geeky, nerdy, different, and a whiz with technology. It’s nicely refreshing to have a female character being a whiz with technology without her being some kind of genius mechanic in a sci-fi context. Plus Alex is instantly likeable, and it’s impossible to not feel for her from the start: the eldest of three children, Alex is different. Since she was little, she’s had flashbacks, or deja vu, or whatever she decides to call the flashes of other lives that feel so much like hers without being. She’s terrified of cats and Ferris Wheels because of those flashes and has become an outcast at school for her strangeness. With her sister suffering from cancer, parents working hard to find a cure, and a younger sister who is ashamed to be related to her, Alex would give anything to be normal.
But normal isn’t for Alex, as she realises when, after a strange vision that takes hold of her out of the blue whilst she’s in class, she finds a note, addressed especially to her, that tells her that someone holds answers to her questions. So Alex goes, unprepared for the truth she is about to uncover and the ripples it threatens to have on her life. Alex is a Descender, but she is also more than that: hidden within Limbo lies the way to 56 past lives that Alex can travel to, taking over the body that her soul occupied and reliving events that have happened. But changing the past can have dire circumstances, and Alex has to watch what she does, which becomes especially hard when every time she travels back in time she meets the same blue-eyed boy who she feels inexorably drawn to. But to find who he is and what is going on, Alex may well have to risk everything she has and loves.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is one of those books that doesn’t give the reader much time to breathe as we’re thrown from one discovery to the other, being made to doubt everything and everyone around Alex until it becomes impossible to know who can be really trusted. Buehrlen weaves the tale with perfect pacing and a deft efficiency when skipping in between Alex’s past and present without ever seeming to drag anything on or give too much or too little away. As I said above, Alex is a likeable, believable POV who becomes entangled in something far bigger than she could have ever imagined. And yes, she has a couple of freak outs that have regrettable consequences, but at least she is capable of not only owning up to them, but also moving past them, to becoming a better and stronger person.
The romance in between her and Blue is wonderfully built in the past through her adventures in 20s Chicago and is so totally believable that it’s hard to not feel heart broken when she has to be torn away from him. But then Blue keeps appearing, despite the fact that he should either be dead or could not possibly have been born yet. Blue’s story is linked far more closely to Alex’s fate than she realises and the book leaves us on one of the sweetest cliffhanger I have come across in a while. I can’t wait for book two to know if my theory is right or not, and I really, really hope it is (mainly because otherwise I am going to feel damn silly!).
But Blue isn’t the only boy of interest in Alex’s life. At school there is Jensen, the boy she has had a crush on for years and who is being nicer and nicer to her all of a sudden, a fact that Alex has problems coming to terms with. Jensen is the popular boy who all the girls love and who is said to flit from one to another. But as Alex finds out as they grow slowly closer, there is more to Jensen than what rumours suggest and he is just as much a victim of them as she is. It was nice to see a boy in the situation of being painted as a ‘man slut’ by those around him even though he is nothing of the sort. It was a nice change from girls being portrayed that way and it was also refreshing for it to be shown that just because people are popular, it doesn’t always mean they want to or aren’t suffering because of it.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare had me from the get-go. There was no going back after reading those first few pages that spoke to the reader with such honesty that it was impossible to not want to find out the ins and outs of the story. Alex can go proudly sit next to all the female heroines that kick ass whilst her book sits very much so near the top of my best books of the year list so far. There’s nothing to dislike about this book, nothing annoying and everything I want in a book: a good plot that takes time to be unravelled and fully understood, adventure, a very villainous and creepy villain, and a romantic relationship that I can’t wait to see coming more to fruition because these two deserve a bit of happiness, damnit!