Firstlife ★★★☆☆

What do we do with Firstlife? The cover is gorgeous, the premise is intriguing… the book is… meh?


Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

I didn’t hate Firstlife 100%, but I also didn’t love it… or like it. There are so many problems right up front. Starting with the opening line:

Duuuuuuuuude. A heads-up would’ve been nice. Can you say whack shack?

While I’m a sucker for experimental formats, the opening messages left a lot to be desired. For example, we’re in a fantasy setting (or so I am led to believe), so why is anyone saying “Duuuuuuuude?” Then, the “General” replies and is just as haughty. The scene was definitely guilty of writing at teens and not for teens.

Meanwhile, the rest of the story does nothing but talk down to the reader, explaining everything and nothing all at the same time. Jargon is everywhere, firstlife, everlife, Troika and Myriad, and is explained almost immediately after they’re each mentioned, like we’re being told a story instead of being immersed in one. Firstlife, is this life you are living now. Everlife, is essentially afterlife and there are two places to go, but they are at war. Troika and Myriad have been at war for a very long time and everyone has different visions of what these places are supposed to be, although, ultimately, one is light and the other dark.

But why are they at war? Why are they after people’s souls? Why does any of it matter? It just felt very awkward that Ten, and the world at large, didn’t have any answers for this-or even lies about this. There was simply nothing.

The setting is also confusing. Firstlife sounds like a fantasy, like a sci-fi, like a futuristic world, but also like modern day. The setting doesn’t come through strongly as most of the story is dialogue and Tenley attempting to convince us that she’s a “badass” because she can hurt people with spoons.

Among the information that falls into Tenley’s lap, is that she is a conduit. That’s code for “special.” This is a trope the YA fandom has long since been over: the reluctant special girl. They need her, they want her, she wants nothing to do with it.

At least in other “special” girl fictions, the girl has a reason, Tenley just hasn’t made a choice, which is why she is in Prynne Asylum “being tortured” until she chooses either Troika or Myriad. Which brings us back to-why does this matter?

The premise was intriguing, as I said at the beginning. A world where everyone knows what awaits them after death? The argument that they aren’t actually alive yet but are living in a sort of limbo and have become sentient? Count me in! I love that! But, duuuuuuuuuuuuuude, it just wasn’t executed well.


By J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.


  1. Oh no that’s so disappointing that it wasn’t very good! I’ve never heard of this before but you’re absolutely eight, the cover is gorgeous and the premise sounds really interesting! That opening line though…I think I’ll give this one a pass!


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