Firstlife ★★★☆☆



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…

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

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.


Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J M Tuckerman is a New Jersey-based writer, blogger, and podcast talent. Tuckerman holds a BA in Writing Arts, an MA in Writing, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is a proud dog mom, cat mom, archer, wife, and passionate book wyrm.

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