✎Title: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare (Alex Wayfare #1)
✎Author: M.G. Buehrlen
✎Publisher: Strange Chemistry
✎Publication date: 4th March 2014
By now you’d think I’d have learned my lesson with Strange Chemistry books. You’d think, after all the glowing reviews and a mere handful (what is it, three?) of books I’ve not liked, that if I’m either disinterested or bored by the premise of a book, that I would remind myself that usually if my first instinct is to dismiss the book for whatever reason, it probably means the book is actually going to surprise me and I’m going to love it.
Because, yep; it happened again.
Sometimes I’m wary of past lives as a theme in books—I just am. It’s one of those things in the same way that I dislike dystopian societies or post-apocalyptic worlds or those gritty stories where everyone has to rebel against something. Or zombies. Because, man, do I hate zombies.
Thankfully there are no zombies here. And instead of being a book I had a vague interest in, I was hooked on The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare from page one. It is addictive and completely unputdownable. M.G. Buehrlen has astounded me; she’s a genius.
Since she can remember, Alex has always had visions she cannot explain. One moment she’s petting a cat, and the next she’s apparently a completely different person, wearing a dress and certainly not in her Pops’ yard. When riding a Ferris wheel, suddenly she’s riding the Ferris Wheel. Déjà vu, of course—it has to be. It makes no sense, but that’s what she decides it is. Until images of being a passenger headed for the New World on a ship assault her in Sunday school during a lesson on absolutely nothing to do with water, and until she finds herself terrifyingly ravenous after a vivid experience of Jamestown during the Starving Time—then Alex begins to think the visions might not be visions, exactly.
But what else could they be? She has certainly never entertained the notion that they could be past lives.
Finally Alex has had enough of this way of life—and of trips to the principal’s office. She just wants to be normal; she wants to pop some pills any shrink can give her and wave buh-bye to the visions forever. That way, her parents can worry about her sick sister Audrey instead of her. She can be a normal big sister for Clare and stop being such an embarrassment to everyone involved.
Normality is all she wants.
Until she meets Porter, a grandfatherly sort of guy who claims to hold all the answers she seeks. But it soon becomes apparent that even he is hiding something from her, and Alex isn’t the kind of girl to sit back and stay quiet about her unease.
And then there’s this guy…
When Alex makes a connection with a blue-eyed guy in 1927, she finds it hard to let go. Something about him stands out to her and she can’t stop thinking about him. But Alex isn’t that girl, she doesn’t go gooey-eyed over some boy she just happened to go out and share a kiss with. And yet… is she imagining this deeper connection? Is the fact that both he—and Porter—are so familiar to her just in her head? Porter is dismissive and ambiguous about Blue, but she sets out to do things her way and find out exactly what is happening to her—and why.
I love Alex. I would hang out with this girl. There’s something so addictive about Alex Wayfare…she’s quirky and geeky and dons her thick, nerd glasses with pride. She might be “Wayspaz” at school, a social leper—partially of her own doing, so as to keep herself alone and protected from wayward visions; the same with anything remotely fictional that could trigger one—have grades she can barely keep above a fail due to her aversion to reading (and the unfair treatment of her by her history teacher), and a “fix-it-freak”, but she is who she is and throughout the book she learns how to accept herself on an even deeper level. She will never be normal, but soon she realises normal sucks anyway. Anyone who thinks normal sucks is right there with me; love it. Love her.
Never mind the plot.
It started with Danielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird but my brother and I read The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare together. (That’s not as derpy as it sounds: we settle down and read a few chapters aloud [usually him; unless it’s Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters, then it’s me] at the end of a day and then get to fanboy about everything simultaneously. It works; it’s cool.) And let’s just say that there were some late nights with Alex Wayfare.
I couldn’t put this book down, couldn’t stop. There’s mystery and intrigue and about a thousand hints and red herrings to throw you off. This is the kind of book that needs to be read, book-club style, and talked about: “what’s going on?”, “who did this?” “whyyyyy?!” All this—and more. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is a stunning novel that is expertly written and paced and presented and—and everything. This book is beautifully heart-breaking and inspiring and terrifying and meaningful. It will surprise and delight and astonish.
The complexity of the book is delivered in a confidently, self-assured way that keeps everything fluid, fast-paced and easy to digest, both emotionally along with Alex herself, and mentally as a reader as you catalogue facts and keep filing away the information needed in order to piece together the meta puzzle. I’ve got a mental board with all my pieces laid out and I keep second-guessing if I’m reading too much into simple things, or dismissing big things because they’re too obvious.
It’s maddeningly brilliant.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is quite easily one of the most exciting books I have ever read. Smart and quirky and so heartfelt and real it’s sakdjfhgdjhsfgghj (only a keyboard mash can even come close; the words, they don’t exist), this book drew me in and led me on a merry chase throughout history, completely entranced by Alex and her journey. And I was its willing victim. I have read nothing so pillow-chompingly (I’m not a nail-biter; I chomp pillows) excellent and exciting, quite possibly ever. There are so few coherent words to actually describe this book, so instead I would advise that you read it now.
If you like anything that’s perfect and awesome and thrilling and real and—
I think you get the point: just read it.