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Neverworld Wake

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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.

328 pages, Hardcover

First published June 5, 2018

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About the author

Marisha Pessl

7 books3,932 followers
Marisha Pessl grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and now lives in New York City. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, her debut novel, was a bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. It won the 2006 John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize (now the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize), and was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. Her new novel, Night Film, comes out August 20, 2013.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,801 reviews
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
July 11, 2018
I really enjoyed this book! I managed to remain intrigued throughout the entire story. So many twists and turns. A great first young adult novel from Marisha Pessl!

CW: death, murder, suicide, depression

If you’re going into this book expected a young adult rendition of Night Film, don’t pick this one up. Neverworld Wake does retain a similar air of mystery to Night Film, but other than that, the story is entirely different.

I really enjoyed the world of Neverworld Wake. I expected this novel to have a much higher level of science fiction influence than it did, which I think helped me to enjoy the book more. It reads like a typical mystery – other than the fact that the characters must solve it through the same 11-or-so hour period every day. It was bizarre, yet easy to understand and engaging all the same.

I don’t have many critiques for Neverworld Wake. I was not totally blown away by the ending and there were certain reveals that felt unrealistic. Otherwise, the plot was thought-provoking and unique, the characters were interesting and well-developed, and I had a fantastic time reading it. Would definitely recommend!
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,483 reviews79k followers
October 14, 2022
"Sometimes there are no answers,
Sometimes you find love,
Sometimes the dark has teeth,
Sometimes it hides doves.
The one thing you can expect in life,
As you step down its twisted road,
Is that you will be speechless.
Then? Ask someone who knows."

-J. C. Gossamer Madwick, The Dark House at Elsewhere Bend

Be still my heart; Marisha Pessl has done it again! I'm amazed at how she can take such varying genres and subject matter and manage to grasp my attention so thoroughly no matter what she writes about. I'll admit, I was nervous going in; I adore Night Film and I had seen some vastly differing opinions surrounding this one, so I wasn't quite sure where I would land. Initially, I had attempted to listen to this via Audible, and I was having trouble connecting, so I put it on hold until just recently. A little astonishing that a book that I had initially marked DNF ended up being a 5 star read, huh? I guess that's just the beauty of reading, and how each experience is different for every person.


In the beginning, there was Beatrice, and the past year has been a rough go of it, if you know what I mean. We find out in the first chapter that her boyfriend Jim died during their senior year, and as the enigmatic leader of the group of friends, everyone has split and started living their own lives. Sister Bea (fond nickname from her friends as she's the goody-two-shoes of the story) has just received a text from one of her old friends, however, and as Jim's "suicide" was closed up relatively fast, Beatrice wants to grill her friends for answers under the guise of catching up and acting normal. During said meet-up, there's a terrible accident, and this becomes the catalyst for the remainder of the novel. If you're hoping to go into this novel blind, I recommend stopping here and reading the book instead. If you'd like a little more info as to what the book is about, without any major spoilers, please continue.


Our group of five friends have come to the realization that they were in a car accident, have nearly died, and are in a state know as a "neverworld wake", which is essentially a purgatory-esque groundhog day that stays in motion until the group can come to a vote on which one of them gets to live. That friend will return to their body and recover, while the rest of the crew will die at the accident. Intriguing, right? So, while our group is trying to cope with this new reality, and then navigate it, they are also banding together to try and solve the mystery of how Jim really died.


Here's the thing-I've been on a huge kick for books involving alternate time lines, infinite realities, and books that make me think lots of hard, thinky thoughts, and this was one to add to the favorites list. Once you read the book you'll understand, but the aspect I loved most is that, while the group attempts to tackle each phase, it doesn't come easily. Sometimes they have to live the same scenario 1,000 times before they figure out the best way to accomplish their goals. By the end of the book, they have lived an eternity inside the neverworld wake, and the detail and slow build in which things are accomplished was divine. The ending, true to Pessl's trademark, allows the reader to decide for themselves how the novel concludes, and many days later, I'm still thinking about this story. Part mystery, part sci-fi exploration, and part self discovery, I believe Neverworld Wake is a novel that will stay with me forever.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
July 24, 2023
...time for you has become snagged on a splinter, forming a closed-circuited potentiality called a Neverworld Wake.

Bea Hartley has been estranged from her friends since the mysterious death of her boyfriend, Jim.

Unable to live with unanswered questions, Bea heads off to ex-BFF Whitley's seaside mansion, Wincroft, to demand some answers.

Basically, Bea and Whitley were part of a super tight group at their private school, comprised of them, Jim, Kipling, Cannon and Martha.

After Jim's death, ruled a suicide, which Bea never believed, she separated herself from the rest of the group as she was overcome with grief. She thinks they hold the truth of what really happened to Jim.

Once she arrives at Wincroft for their ill-fated reunion, the group, all in attendance, of course, pretty much accepts her back with good grace.

Before she knows it, Bea is being whisked away for a night of clubbing. As we all know, nights at the club often end dramatically and this one definitely did.

Once they finally drag themselves back to the mansion, shit starts to get real freaky, real quick.

Picture it: A knock at the door, which once opened reveals a mysterious, creepy old dude standing on the stoop. The rules of the Neverworld Wake are explained to them and it's off to the races.

Bea never gives up her quest to discover what really happened to Jim and that is where the rest of the narrative takes us; the group investigating and uncovering the truth. Secrets and deceptions are revealed as we race towards the startling finale.

Guys, I loved this book. I loved the mystery. I loved the sci-fi elements; anything relating to the concept of time, I am down for. I loved the dynamics among the friends. I loved the characters.

This group of kids were the golden children of their school. They were all so smart and ambitious. I got real Slytherin vibes from this.

This is my second Marisha Pessl book. I love her and will basically read anything she writes. Anything. Got one of her discarded grocery lists? I'll read that.

Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 26, 2018
hm. yeah, i think i am going to stick with a flat three on this one. it’s a shame, because i was looking forward to this with hearts in my eyes and a quiver in my loins and i even got a sweet signed copy, but while it is a thoroughly enjoyable, medium book, it stays right there in the middle.

in the positive column, pessl makes the transition to YA very well - this is perfectly suited for its audience and the pacing, the themes, the characters, the nonlinear structural juggernaut are all comparable to other YA fiction, reminiscent of One of Us Is Lying, Before I Fall, We Were Liars, etc. and if the characters sometimes speak beyond their years in some utterly romanticized casual bravado vision of young adulthood, saying things like “You have to design your life like it’s a fresh America” &etc, that's so common in YA lit that it doesn’t feel out of place at all - it’s just part of the territory. there’s definitely crossover appeal here - teens will enjoy it, adults who already read YA will enjoy it, but it’s not going to be the book that opens the door to YA for an exclusively adult-fiction reader, despite the author’s success in that market.

because like each of those books mentioned above, the journey to the mystery is ultimately better than its resolution, and the reveal is pretty straightforward, considering the afterlife limbo/time travel/groundhog day chowder of the bulk of it. there was a moment about 2/3 of the way through when i stopped and squinted at the book and said, “holy shit, did i just figure this out?,” getting this huge brain boner over what i thought was about to become a conceptual masterpiece of a twist on the same level (but different ballpark) of More Than This, but it went a different way and ended up being perfectly satisfying, but not a game-changer that would ruin the next five books by comparison.

but back in the positive column: she controls the story very well, doling out the dripping-clue backstory and “do you know what’s happening?” glee very sparingly, which makes this a real suspenseful page-turner, it's just not the kind you finish and want to start over from the beginning.

a fast and fun leisure read, but pack two more in your suitcase. (LGM)


probably a 3.5 - lemme think on it...

review TK.


why did no one tell me this took place in rhode island???? they have already mentioned del's lemonade!!! my HEART!





come to my blog!
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.5k followers
November 30, 2018
This was REALLY cool. Like, way cooler than I expected it to be. Definitely recommend if you're interested in a YA thriller that thinks outside the box!
Profile Image for Barbie.
109 reviews309 followers
April 29, 2019

My thoughts in a nutshell
So... I DNF at 55% I don't know what happened in the end, if somebody share with me I will be happy.

The story is about…
Skip over this point if you don't like the sneak peek.
some young student has a car accident and they stuck in an alternative life called Neverworld. Only one character will survive the others will die.

Why I DNF it? ☹️
The concept has a lot of potentials, but the actual book is a joke. A "new" YA book with a forced romance, again. I'm so pissed.
The characters are empty as my soul after I read this. They are absolutely one dimensional.
The pacing was painful. I was bored as hell. In the middle of the book, the same things happen over and over again without a reason. I know that this is a point of the storyline, but please, it just not works the same way.
Pessl's writing style is weird to me. This was my first read, I'm not sure I want to read another book by her.
The whole book is just a checklist. It has a lot of interesting topics, but all of them is superficial, she just mentions it and skip away. Exp: One of the character is gay. How did I know it? The main character mentions it once.
I've waited for this book since the release date, but it was weak. I'm disappointed.

Make a conclusion
I gave it 1 stars because of the reasons I write it above.
I don't recommend this book.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,209 reviews19.7k followers
June 17, 2018
I was absolutely captivated by the synopsis for this book initially. It had intrigue, mystery and sounded dark. My kinda thing!

I won’t give too much of the plot away since it’s always best to go in blind with these types of books.
It’s safe to say, the plot pulled me in. The mystery surrounding it had me turning the pages and what kept me reading. The writing did an amazing job at making me envision the world quite vividly.

However, the characters fell flat for me. There was no substance to them... they felt pretentious and privileged and I couldn’t connect or sympathise with them. And that was its biggest downfall for me. It doesn’t matter how compelling the plot may be; if I can’t bring myself to care for the characters, then that ruins the reading experience.

I’d still recommend this though if you’re into sci-fi, time travel, good old murder mystery and plot driven story.

Thank you, Scholastic, for this book!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.5k followers
August 2, 2018

What a fantastic, crazy ride this book took me on!

As much as I hate comparing books, Neverworld Wake felt like a slightly-less-sciency Dark Matter (see my review) with a YA twist. There's definitely more angst and melodrama here, but with the twists and turns, the mystery-within-a-mystery, I really found it pretty spectacular.

When Beatrice was a student at the tony Darrow-Harker School a little over a year ago, she and her friends had their own little world. Even though she was on scholarship, not privileged like some of her friends, she somehow gained entry into the elite group, the cool, popular, beautiful people. And then everything changed. One night, her boyfriend Jim, a musical genius and the one member of the group that everyone was a little in love with, died mysteriously. The authorities ruled it a suicide, but Beatrice and her friends couldn't understand what would have driven Jim to kill himself.

After Jim's death, Beatrice left Darrow-Harker and her friends behind, trying to process her grief and move on with her life. She finishes her first year at college, and plans to do nothing more than help her parents run their cafe and ice cream parlor in her small Rhode Island hometown. And then she gets a text from her friend Whitley, someone she hasn't heard from in over a year. Whitley invites Beatrice up to her family's ancient home, which served as a headquarters for the group during high school. While she's afraid to drudge up her old feelings, what Beatrice wants more than anything is answers to what happened to Jim, so much to her parents' chagrin, she heads up to see her friends.

"Friendship, when it runs deep, blinds you to the outside world. It's your exclusive country with sealed borders, unfair distribution of green cards, rich culture no foreigner could understand. To be cut off from them, exiled by my own volition as I had been for the past year, felt cheap and unsettled, a temporary existence of suitcases, rented rooms, and roads I didn't know."

Seeing her friends again feels like no time has passed, but at the same time like they live in separate worlds. Beatrice feels Jim's loss acutely, feels like the dynamics of the group have changed inexorably. As much as she wants to demand answers, she goes along with their plans, which involve copious amounts of alcohol and loud music at a club. She vows to head home to her parents' in the morning. And then there is a knock at the door, a mysterious old man on the doorstep. What he has to say blows their minds.

"You're all nearly dead. Wedged between life and death. Time for you has become snagged on a splinter, forming a closed-circuited potentiality called a Neverworld Wake."

Essentially, they're going to live the same loop of time, over and over again. But there's only one way out: during the last three minutes of every wake (or loop), each member of the group must vote on the one person who will survive. Everyone else will move on to "true death." The decision must be unanimous, and until they come to a consensus, the loop will play itself out endlessly, if not forever.

As each individual tries to make sense of the reality they now find themselves in, they ultimately understand the only choice they really have is to convince the others they're the one who deserves to survive. But before that decision can be broached, they decide they should try and find out the truth about Jim's death. Of course, knowing whom to trust—and trying to uncover secrets thought buried—could have dangerous consequences, even if their sense of time is skewed. Beatrice has to decide if finding out the truth is worth the pain she may sustain.

There's a lot more to the story but it's best left to discover on your own. Suffice it to say that Marisha Pessl, whose previous books, Special Topics in Calamity Physics and the incredible Night Film (see my review), utterly dazzled me, has once again proven that her talent knows no bounds. Some weren't as enthusiastic about this book, in part because I think they expected the Pessl of
Night Film and/or aren't fans of YA like I am. But I loved every twisty, confusing, melodramatic second of this book.

We've certainly seen stories like this hundreds of times before, where our memories are tested and we discover our friends might not always have been the loyal, amazing people we imagined them to be. But in Pessl's hands, this story takes on new life. Yes, the whole concept of time and the Neverworld Wake are present, which obviously requires the suspension of disbelief, but there's so much more to this—the flush of young love, the need to create, coping with loss, and the things we do for the strangest of reasons. There's a poignancy to this book even as it veers into The Secret History territory, and even a little bit of the movie Groundhog Day.

This won't be a book for everyone, but here's what I know: I would willingly read anything Marisha Pessl writes. (Keep me in mind if you need a test audience!) But seriously, even if this book doesn't appeal to you, give one of her other books a shot. This is an author of immense talent, once whose stories are at once larger than life and shockingly intimate.

"We swear we see each other, but all we are ever able to make out is a tiny porthole view of an ocean. We think we remember the past as it was, but our memories are as fantastic and flimsy as dreams. It's so easy to hate the pretty one, worship the genius, love the rock star, trust the good girl. That's never their only story. We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read."

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Rachel Bea.
358 reviews116 followers
July 4, 2018
I don't usually write long reviews, but I started to type up everything that was annoying me about this book, so here you go.

Yeah, it's rambling and whatever. I'm just so disappointed that the author of one of my favorite books (Night Film) wrote this...

The Plot
I noticed a lot of people were anticipating this book because they think it's a boarding school supernatural mystery. It's not. The characters did go to a boarding school and that's how they know each other, but nothing takes place there. So don't get too excited if that's what you want the book to be.

The shortest explanation I can give for the plot is that after a car accident, the characters believe they have survived and go back to Wincroft, which is the home of one of the characters. They then learn that they’re actually in the Neverworld, where they are stuck in a loop. Each loop is called a “wake.” There is a little more to this, but I guess that would be a spoiler.

Anyway, that sounds pretty cool, right?

To make the plot more complicated, the author throws in a potential murder mystery. Beatrice’s boyfriend died a year ago - it was ruled a suicide. Bea left town after that and never talked to anyone again. The night of the car accident is the first time they’ve all been reunited. So, the death becomes central to the plot - how did he (Jim) die and did anyone in the friend group play a role in his death? Again, this all sounds like it could be very cool.

The execution of the story is not so cool. It’s basically “Groundhog Day, but make it sci-fi.” The problem is Groundhog Day sucks. Sorry, not sorry, but very rarely does a book or film pull off the “groundhog day” story device (Although I liked Happy Death Day.) The first 100 pages were repetitive as hell. Numerous times I thought to myself, “Why isn’t this novel a short story? Why is it taking so long to say so little?”

Anyone who is looking forward to the murder mystery aspect of the novel has to wait until they’re well over the 100 page mark. I guess I’ll put this under a spoiler, even though IMO it doesn’t really matter:

The Characters
Setting aside the ridiculous premise that children of powerful billionaires are attending school in Warwick, Rhode Island of all places… most of these characters suffered from a syndrome of, I don’t know what to call it, but they weren’t rounded characters, they were like Extremes or “The Most”s. Let’s start with Whitley. It wasn’t enough that Whitley had to be troubled, she had to be the most troubled daughter of a pharmaceutical giant who didn’t just have anger management issues she had to have The Most Angry Anger Management Issues Ever with a Temper No One Can Match and She’s just THE MOST WILD and UNTAMABLE girl EVER she can’t just throw one dish SHE HAS TO THROW EVERYTHING IN THE KITCHEN ITSELF.

The main character, Bea, can’t just be a nice, well-rounded girl, she has to be constantly referred to as THE MOST NICEST GIRL EVER THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IN THE WORLD AS NICE AS SHE IS IT’S IMPOSSIBLE THAT YOU WILL FIND ANYONE NICER. No character can say anything bad about Bea.


Jim couldn’t just be creative and interesting person, he has to be The Most Intense Boy You Will Ever Meet and Any Time Someone Passes Him On The Street They Fall In Love With Him Because He’s SO PERFECT and not only is he the son of a billionaire and worth billions of dollars himself and he can’t just be a guitar player and musically inclined he’s also A MUSICAL GENIUS WHO IS THE NEXT LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA (yes he’s really called that in the book) headed for Broadway and EVERYONE loves his songs and he’s not just tall HE’S SIX FOOT THREE TALL and if you look at him YOU’LL BE UTTERLY CAPTIVATED BECAUSE HE’S THE MOST MAGNETIC PERSON TO EVER WALK THE PLANET.

Yes, all these incredible beings- two of whom are going to change the world because they’re the next Stephen Hawking and Lin-Manuel Miranda - all happen to be bestest friends with each other because magically they all attend some random school in podunk, rhode island. (i say this as someone who grew up in rhode island.)

There are a few other characters, but you won’t remember them because they’re so flat. As I’m writing this, I can’t even recall their names. It’s like the characters are written in two extremes, a few of them are so Incredibly Amazing and the others are… nothing. Oh yeah, one of them is from the south so of course all of his dialogue includes the world “child.” That's about all I can say about him.

The Writing
I mean, when I got to this line: “He was beautiful in the unlikely way of some eighteenth-century hero galloping across moors on horseback” near the beginning of the book, I knew the author had already given up. First of all, what teenage girl says that, and second of all, what does that even mean? So many moments of this book were described in this kind of magical, gushy, overly-poetic yet empty way that it was laughable. There was this line too, even earlier on, that had me scratching my head: "She was the only girl I knew who surveyed everybody like a leather-clad Dior model and rattled off Latin like it was her native language." Are leather-clad Dior models known to survey people? How are those two things related...

The Plot Inconsistencies

When I started noticing the errors in the plot, I thought perhaps the author was going for an unreliable narrator. As I began writing my list out around the 75% mark, I now think the author had a horrible editor (if she even had one). Here are some things I noticed:
I guess I should put these under a cut.

The Ending
I will put this under a spoiler since what I’m about to say will ruin the book for you:
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
489 reviews39k followers
June 23, 2018
We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.

I feel like a lot of people going into this book will come in with high expectations and somewhat of a buzz, especially if one has already read Marisha Pessl's raved thriller, Night Film. I think a lot of people going in will expect something.....else, but will end up with something different, instead.

This book was so bizarre and strange, but good. But more like.....an 'ambiguous' good.

To say that I've never read anything like this before is an understatement. Neverworld Wake was astonishingly surprising, but in a subtle way. It's like a light switch that no one has ever turned on, but it lights up something we've never fully seen before.....**vague hand gestures**

I was super pumped to get my hands on this book and I was lucky enough to get an arc and upon reading it, I simply devoured it in a day. And finished it. And oh boy.

Since it isn't publicly out yet (at the time of this review/date read), I fully can't express my feelings or talk about it with someone since it's still months away from its release date.


I think this is one of the rare times where I'm actually glad that I don't have anyone to talk about it yet. This feeling that I have, really resonated with the same 'feeling' I had while reading it. Weird, I know. But it's like a sleeping secret. A dream waiting to happen.....(I'm being hella dramatic right now about this, but....)

I think where it fell a little for me was the middle of the book. But I really liked the beginning, how it all started. And the ending. Especially the ending.

After finishing it, I didn't really know how to rate this book, actually. But now a week later, I don't think it really matters on whether I give this book five stars, one star, or even three stars.

I think it's just simply-- one of those books that you're glad to have read.

3 Stars.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Profile Image for Heather.
403 reviews16.9k followers
October 9, 2018
This book truly messed up my mind. Flew through it because I just had to know what happened!
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,389 followers
September 22, 2018
There's really nothing I would change about this book, and I couldn't put it down. That's why it gets 5 stars from me.

I had heard pretty mixed reviews about this one from a lot of book reviewers & friends I follow online, so maybe going in with low expectations helped my reading of it? Either way, I thought that Marisha Pessl did an absolutely fantastic job of telling a very complex and confusing story in a way that is never hard to read or understand. Like seriously, how did she manage to always keep the narrative grounded and moving in a story that is all about a time loop? Very impressive.

Each character was sort of a caricature of the different people you might meet at boarding school or see on a teen soap opera. But they also had a hidden layer of depth, some characterization that set them apart from the trope. And we see it all through the lens of our main character, Beatrice, who is the 'goody two shoes' of the bunch. It's a bit farcical but also probing the assumptions we make about people in a really interesting way.

The writing started a tad bit rough for me, since Pessl does rely on extended metaphor and simile quite a bit, but I got used to it very quickly and eventually found myself completely lost in the writing. It was the definition of a page turner.

If you are going to read this because you have heard it compared to The Secret History or other brooding, boarding school books with angsty characters, STOP RIGHT THERE. Yes, there is a boarding school element but it's very minimal, and this story deals with the aftermath of something that happened previously in the characters' lives at said boarding school. Go into this knowing it's an edgy, fast-paced sci-fi thriller about life, mistakes, friendship, horror novels, bumblebee pins, purple owls, raging waterfalls, possible suicide and a lot more stuff all mixed together in a pretty epic story. And enjoy.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,116 followers
September 12, 2019
“When there’s a break in the path in front of you and you’re freaked out, you take a running leap and trust that you’ll reach the other side.”

Ok then. So I did enjoy this – it was such an interesting concept. A group of five estranged friends meet up in an old house, but get into a car accident causing them to become trapped in a world between life and death. A Neverworld Wake.

Bee hasn’t spoken to her friends in at least a year (the timescale is unsure) ever since the mysterious death of her boyfriend Jim Mason. It was ruled as a suicide but Bee thinks there is more to it than that.

Once she meets up with her old best friends, they are visited by a strange man known as The Keeper. He tells them that will be stuck in a never ending loop, repeating the same 12 hours over and over, and at the end of each ‘wake’ they must each vote for who they want to survive – the rest will die.

As the kids suffer through wake after wake, a few become unhinged, angry, frightened. And as secrets are revealed and we eventually learn about the events that led to Jim’s death – it seems everyone had something to hide.

I didn’t love the characters. The only one I liked was Kipling. I didn’t entirely get the ending.

Overall, an interesting concept. I’d never read anything like that. But I couldn’t get on board with what happened to Jim, and what happened during the wakes, and I didn’t particularly like the characters.

"The body shuts down when it's too sad."

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Jessy MelodyofBooks.
224 reviews1,552 followers
June 8, 2019
Interessante Idee und gelungene Umsetzung :) wobei mit B etwas fern geblieben ist. Tatsächlich fand ich Martha als Charakter am spannendsten.
Der Umgang mit diversen Themen, wie Tod, Freundschaft, Liebe etc. War gelungen und gut dargestellt.
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
512 reviews3,472 followers
September 24, 2018
What I liked about this book is that Marisha Pessl managed to tell a complex story that could've easily been confusing in a very succinct and beautiful way (I will always love her writing). The mythology of the neverworld wake was very out there but she managed to keep the story grounded. I really enjoyed the characters - at first glance, they seem simple and a bit tropey, but, as you read on, you quickly find that they have layers and deeper motivations for what they do. If you go into this story looking for something similar to Night Film, this isn't it. This book was definitely still a wild ride and I'd recommend it for people who like to read things that kind of hurt your brain but also keep you entertained. I'll admit that the ending dragged a bit and I sort of predicted where some of it was going (only some - a lot of it was still a surprise), but overall I really liked this book.
Profile Image for Gemma ♕ Bookish Gems.
487 reviews224 followers
December 13, 2018
I really loved this book. There were so many twists and turns and the premise itself was just so cool. I loved the way that the only way out of the Neverworld was for four people to willingly die so that one could live.

What I liked most about it is that there wasn’t an easy fix, they didn’t find some loophole. They dragged it out for as long as they could, their own personal desires to carrying on living pushing them to drag themselves through the same day again and again, exploring what they could and couldn’t do in this new world they had found themselves. They seem to go through a grieving process. Denial that this is even real; anger at each other and the man they believe is to blame for putting them there; trying to make a deal to get out, find some loophole that would let them all walk free; depression when they each in turn realise it is totally hopeless; and acceptance, when they can finally see that the only way out of the Neverworld is to take the vote and let one person wake up back in the real world. It all tied in with the grief and guilt they were all feeling for their part in Jim’s death. It was wonderfully intertwined with them working out what happened to him.

I also enjoyed the way they learnt to navigate the Neverwold by tying it into the book and loved how the world itself was made up with a little bit of each of them.

This is a great thriller with a sci-fi twist and I just loved it.


Well that was absolutely brilliant. RTC
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
1,144 reviews593 followers
June 7, 2018
Trust me, no one is more disappointed than I am right now.

Considering that Night Film is one of my top three books of all time, I was so excited to get my hands on an early copy of Pessl’s third novel.

I didn’t hate it, and I was engaged throughout the book. However, I think this could have been so much more, which is why I’m coming away feeling more disappointed than anything.

The Plot

I went into this having absolutely no clue what this was about other than that the blurb sounded weird, so I’m going to stay vague. I highly recommend going into this with limited knowledge.

Basically the story follows a girl named Beatrice, whose boyfriend died under mysterious circumstances. She goes to an estate called Wincroft to meet up with her former friend group, and gets caught up in a very strange event known as the Neverworld Wake.

This book reminded me a lot of We Were Liars - the tone, the privileged main characters, the overall weirdness of it. It also has that pretentious group of people involved in a murder thing going on, like The Secret History and the more recent If We Were Villains. Throw in a dash of Before I Fall and you’ve got Neverworld Wake.

It’s such a strange premise. That initial marvel of the eerie, strange atmosphere Pessl creates is what gives the story its momentum.

However, I feel like this book took on too much. It wanted to be this weird, slightly sci-fi story, but halfway through it starts to turn into a straight up murder mystery, leading to the tone feeling somewhat convoluted. I left feeling unsure of what this story was trying to be.

The Characters

I remember Night Film having such wonderfully vivid main characters, so I was quite surprised to find that all of the characters in this novel felt woefully underdeveloped.

I didn’t find any of the characters compelling or likable, especially not the main character, Beatrice. I really didn’t care what happened to any of them. They certainly felt more teenager-y than the characters in Pessl’s other novel.

Also, what kind of names are Whitley, Kipling and Cannon? And then the other three have these random grandparent names: Beatrice, Jim and Martha.

The Writing

I will be the first to say that Pessl is a fantastic writer. She has a superb command of language and is able to find the perfect small details to enrich the story.

Structurally, there were things that could have been improved. The pacing sometimes feels off, with large amounts of time passing in the span of a few pages.

I also think the abundance of pop culture references is a huge misstep. This book has such a strange atmosphere and every time the characters would blurt out a pop culture reference, it would instantly disrupt the atmosphere of the story.

Mental Illness Comments
"Gandalf is depressed," Kip explain to me with a prim nodded. "He also suffers from multiple personalities. He's a Great Dane who thinks he's a lap dog." We’re comparing the dog’s personality to having depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Okay, so Pessl really likes to use mental illness for comparisons and jokes - like there were 10+ separate lines like this.
...some young British actor from the Royal Shakespeare Company with a schizophrenic ability to sound like completely different men and women...
"Or S.O. is his sixth personality, as he has secretly suffered from schizophrenia for years."
Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder are not the same thing...

She makes so many references to schizophrenia and multiple personalities. She uses crazy and insane and says stuff about people needing to be in mental institutions, and I just feel like these issues should be treated with more sensitivity.
Sat up with me all night helpin' me write my essay about Momma Greer. 'Mommy Bipolar.' Otherwise known as 'How to Survive in the Custody of a Complete Lunatic'. Let’s call people with mental illness ‘complete lunatics’, shall we?

I get that the characters are teens, and teens make insensitive comments, but these still made me cringe.

The Pit Bull Comments
Her negligence had led to a pit bull, chained up in the backyard, attacking Kipling when he was five, biting off three fingers on his left hand, and leaving him with a "mini shark bite" on his chin—disfigurations he paraded like a Purple Heart.

"I'd call off your pit bull of a mom," said Cannon. This one isn’t even clever? It’s referring to this girl’s mom calling the police on the main characters for harassing their daughter. How does that make her a pit bull?

Now, if you don’t have any background working with pit bull-type dogs, what I’m about to say is going to seem like a huge overreaction.

Am I making a huge deal about two lines in a book? Yup. But when lines like these have the potential to cost dogs their lives, I don’t think it’s an overreaction.
I wish I didn’t have to write out an entire rant here, but I feel that it is my responsibility as someone who works with pit bull-type dogs to call attention to why lines like these are harmful.

So, here I go.

I have worked for over six years rescuing dogs. I have fostered over 70. I’ve worked with small organizations as well as volunteered for high volume kill shelters.

Nearly all of the dogs in the high volume shelter were pit bulls - not due to any fault of the dogs, but because they are the most frequently neglected, abandoned, and straight-up abused. They’re also the least frequently adopted.

The non-pit bull type dogs tended to be the ones with the most severe behavioral issues, yet these dogs were given chance after chance. When a dog that could be classified as pit bull made one wrong move, it was all over. There were no second chances for a dog like that, not when the shelter had 50+ other pitties that were perfectly behaved, yet rejected by adopters at every corner because of that horribly negatively charged label: “pit bull”.

I spent many days trying to convince people that walked into the animal control to just look at the dogs, even when the most frequent criteria I got was ‘not a pit bull’ (I actually had a potential adopter tell me they didn’t want a ‘pit bull’ because their other dog didn’t like pit bulls, which at least gave me a good chuckle).

I had adopters holding a wide-eyed eight week old puppy, asking me to guarantee that the puppy had no pit bull in it. I showed a dog to another adopter who looked at the breed on the card and laughed: ‘pit bull? that dog’s not mean enough to be any pit bull!’.

I took one of my fosters, Casey, to meet an adopter. I saw that all too familiar look in the woman’s eyes when she walked through the doors: pit bull. She left hurriedly, and Casey trotted back to the car with me, unaware that anything had gone wrong.

I took another foster, Juju, out on a walk with me. My neighbor exited their home, their Cavalier Spaniel following. He spotted Juju and walked back in the home, slamming the door.

All of this is nothing compared to what those who work only with pit bull type dogs have seem. It’s nothing compared to the Youtube comments on videos of happy dogs, angry people yelling that all of these dogs should be shot.

When people make up fictional stories about a pit bull eating a child’s hand, how do you think that makes the reader perceive pit bulls? Do you think that person will be eager to give one of these dogs a chance? Or will they walk right past, condemning these dogs to sit in cages for months on end, possibly to be killed?

In my experience, an adopter will take home the most aggressive dog in the shelter before they will even look at one labeled pit bull. And it’s because of seemingly harmless lines like these.

It’s 2018. I’m tired of seeing this. I don’t think these lines are clever. In fact, with the frequency that I see them, I think it’s lazy writing.

I’m sure Pessl didn’t mean any harm with these lines. Unfortunately, it’s the things that seem like throwaway lines that can do the most damage.

That’s why this rant is necessary and why I’ll keep doing them as long as I keep seeing these lines.


As you can see, I had a lot to say on this one. Excluding the distasteful lines, I mostly enjoyed this reading experience. If you really enjoyed her previous works, I think you’ll find this one interesting, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as Night Film.

Recommended for those who enjoy stranger reads but are okay with a large focus on a murder mystery.
Profile Image for Caroline .
429 reviews594 followers
May 28, 2018

Marisha Pessl’s third book is her first offering not only in the young adult genre but also science fiction, and it’s a success. The story is a balanced blend of the solid (a murder-mystery element) and the fantastical (the “Neverworld” sci-fi element, also a mystery).

Pessl has proven herself a masterful writer who goes above and beyond in her work. Although Neverworld Wake is modest compared to her Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Night Film--it doesn’t contain illustrations like Special Topics in Calamity Physics or various fake media like Night Film--in no way is it a modest accomplishment. For example, its complexity makes it difficult to sum up.

On a very general level, Neverworld Wake centers on a group of five college students who have been best friends since high school and who gather one evening to catch up, like old times. From the beginning, it’s known that one in the group (the protagonist’s boyfriend), died mysteriously in his senior year of high school. His death has been the elephant in the room, to the dismay of the protagonist, and her goal on this night is to address it. The story then turns really weird.

Neverworld Wake contains a slightly mind-bending story within a story, and the two are intimately and intelligently connected. That story within the main story is enchanting and had me wishing Pessl would expand it to book length. More than that, Neverworld Wake is different. I’ve never heard of or read a sci-fi like it, (aside from ) or any murder mystery like it, for that matter.

If Pessl has any weakness, it would be in her characterization. The five main characters are an eclectic bunch, but they’re one-dimensional. Each has a single defining characteristic. There’s the goody two-shoes, the socially awkward genius, the gay guy (in a heavy-handed depiction), the brilliant hacker, and the filthy-rich girl. There’s also a third mystery here, and it concerns the group: The narrator’s boyfriend In the larger scheme of this page-turner, however, these are small complaints.

Pessl did adjust her writing to a young adult readership, but this is still better written than many offerings in the genre. I also noted how markedly different her writing is here from her other book featuring young characters, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Where that is overwrought and at times pretentious, this is unembellished. It’s obvious this is work by a gifted writer but by a writer who no longer feels she has anything to prove. The intelligence and creativity that make her a stand-out shine through as always.

NOTE: I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy from Goodreads in May 2018.
Profile Image for Karima chermiti.
825 reviews153 followers
July 6, 2018
It’s so easy to hate the pretty one, worship the genius, love the rock star, trust the good girl.
That’s never their only story.
We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.

Neverworld Wake confirmed it for me, Marisha Pessl is one of a kind. No one writes atmospheric, spooky and powerful profound story with a thought-provoking ending and memorable sense of doom like she does it.

Once upon a time, Beatrice Hartley had it all, a family that loved her, a boyfriend who was her present and her future and friends everyone envied her for. Once upon a time, she was one of a six and she belonged to those friends the same way they belonged to her but even the strongest relationships crumble when something brutal happens. The death of Jim, Beatrice’s boyfriend and the glue that held the group together tore those friendships to pieces and everything that once was is no longer the same.

Now it’s been a year after the graduation and Beatrice founds herself going back to Wincroft—the seaside estate, the place that holds all those incredible moments she and her friends have ever shared. A reunion of sort but the only reason she is going back is to get to the bottom of what happened the night Jim died.

It’s the first night at Wincroft, Beatrice is seriously regretting her decisions to come and reunite with her friends and things are so strained you can cut the tension with a butter knife but all her worries are nothing compared of what she’s going to live next.

Hysteria. Panic. Fury. Despair. Fear. Alarm.

Welcome to Neverworld wake when time is frozen and they’re suspended between death and life. Only one can wall free out of this and it’s their decision to make.

You know the book was not even on my radar at all, I knew about it by coincidence but once I realized that it’s written by Marisha Pessl, I knew it was a done deal. I just had to read it and immerse myself in it. I only read one other book by her and it was Night Film but it was such a tremendous and confusing experience that I know I’m going to read anything this author has to offer. And Neverworld Wake did not disappoint. It was a multifaceted unique story with great unreliable characters and a mystery that kept playing with my expectations and an ending that left completely broken and drained from emotions.

1/A multifaceted story:

Same as night film, this book has many layers intertwined in the story it tells, woven in such an effortless way that you feel the harmony between the different aspects of the stories seeping through your bones. For a story that deals with a lot of things while trying to send so many messages, you would think it will turn up to be a complete mess but this is Marisha Pessl we’re talking about and she knows how to deal with all elements in her stories and makes them shine equally.

Neverworld Wake is a book that feels grounded in reality even though its premise is farfetched and totally strange, it’s the characters and what they’re going through and the different dynamics that exist between them that make it feel so real and vivid. For a book that gets stranger with every turn and twist, the book manages also to create memorable relationships that portray the beauty that comes with having people who knows you as a person deep down and also the ugliness that comes with keeping secrets and holding back and hiding resentment and jealousy. Loss, grief and the need to move on are also the forces that drive the story forward and reveal to us the hidden layers of each character.

2/Haunting and haunted writing style:

This author writes like no other author, there’s something about her words that reach deep inside of me and just yanks the feelings out. Her words are so beautiful and full of meaning and possibilities. Her figures of speech are always perfectly written and she doesn’t overuse them at all. And in this particular book, her writing felt like it was haunted by the characters past, pain and failure; it was filled with anguish and despair that it felt like it was branding me with emotions.

3/Eerie and scary and fascinating, atmospheric setting:

The neverworld is where the story takes place, If I can explain it, I’d say it’s like an alternate world where everything is suspended in time while the real world is moving on all around it. This fact alone makes it a fascinating setting but when you add to that the meaning of being imprisoned in such a place then you start to realize that it’s deeply unsettling and scary place to be. The author also manages to create such an atmospheric and eerie setting that I felt like I was yanked from my real world and transported into this place where everything is strange, scary and deeply enigmatic.

4/Complex Unreliable characters:

The story revolves around the 5 friends who are still reeling from the death of their friend and then they found each other in this world where nothing is what seems and the little control they had on their lives start to unravel.

Friendship, when it runs deep, blinds you to the outside world.

Right from early on, I got the feeling that something is not quite right about these friends who are pretending like nothing bad ever happened but once they discover that they are stuck together until they make that dreadful decision, the masks starts to fall off and I get to glimpse who they really are and with those glimpses I started to understand that they are not being truthful about what they were doing the night Jim died. They are hiding many things that could help Beatrice understand how her boyfriend killed himself that night but these friends are not revealing anything and the more they lose hope the more they unravel and the more the facade they cultivated for years starts to crumble.

I have never met such unreliable fascinating characters like this group of friends, stuck between the way the world sees them and they way they see themselves, they are complex, layered with hidden depths and the more time passes the more I get to see them and discover more about them. I loved them, I hated them, I trusted them and then I doubted them, I rooted for some and misjudged others and right till the ending, they kept blindsiding and surprising me. It’s hard to pin them down and get to the bottom of them because they have no bottom, the more time I spend with them the more they reveal of themselves and what they reveal is not always what I expected.

Look around. It's almost gone.
If only someone had told me that before. About life. If only I had understood.

I think one of the most important things the author wanted to communicate through this story is that people are more than one label, one story or one moment. We can’t put them into boxes and feel like we finally know them. There’s always a corner of them left unchecked, there’s always a piece of them still lost and we are always incapable of seeing them entirely.

5/Unpredictable twists and a reveal that I didn’t see coming:

At the heart of this story, lies the mystery behind the death of Jim yet the truth of what actually happened was slippery and elusive. I racked my mind trying to find the truth but every time I think I finally get it, the book will change lanes and I’ll be left in the dust. At first glance, the mystery will seem familiar and generic but the truth is nothing short of heartbreaking.

Jim’s death had been the earthquake that swallowed cities. Although I had spent the past year certain my friends knew much more about it than they’d let on, I also knew with every passing day the truth was drifting farther out of reach.

I knew that these characters are hiding secrets but I couldn’t guess which secret each one is hiding and to discover finally what took place made me regret ever wanting to know in the first place. It is uncomfortable at times to challenge what we want to believe and to shatter the hopes we have, in that regards this book did the same brilliant thing the lucky ones manages to pull off, writing a reveal that left me speechless and broke my heart.

6/ An ending that made the journey worth it:

This book has that ending that feels equally perfect and yet so wrong and for that I still think about it till this day. The book managed to make me change my mind at the same time and feel guilt and bad about misjudging one particular character, add to that how the book ended, and I’m still in state of denial about the whole thing. But at the same time, the ending carried the spirit of the book and felt honest to the things the story explored and revealed.

The people who change us are the ones we never saw clearly at all, not until they were gone.

Leave it to Marisha Pessl to write an ending that fills me with abundance of feelings and manage to unsettle me even more

Haunting and disturbing, sad and melancholic, satisfying and confusing, this book is an experience like no other. I highly recommend it
Profile Image for Hilly 🎐.
709 reviews1,325 followers
August 18, 2020
This book was so weird that I still don’t know what genre it is or what it is actually about.

It was really addicting because it was relatively fast-paced, however I found that the actual story was a bit vague in some points. I don’t know if this is the right way to say it, but some details weren’t that clear. For example I still don’t get why the cruise scene was so important, why Martha did what she did and that weird album ending. I also don’t understand why the five here had to discover what happened to Jim before they could take the Neverworld vote. Where was the link there?

Another thing I didn’t like was the writing style: there were too many metaphors that didn’t mean anything to me. I reread them 10-15 times and they still didn’t make sense. All the characters talk like that so the dialogue was very unrealistic at times.

But this book was enjoyable nonetheless. Some twists had me with my mouth hanging open so that’s always a good sign! Even if the genre of the book was undefined I liked the science fiction vibes mixed with the contemporary setting.
I’ll read Night Film for sure in the future!
Profile Image for Amelia.
173 reviews49 followers
June 15, 2018
I really enjoyed this book. It was well-crafted and you can tell it was thought out right down to every detail.

The reason why it lost a star is that it was a little hard to get into. I had to read the first few chapters before I was really invested with the story.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Lieblingsleseplatz .
233 reviews34 followers
April 17, 2019
Das Buch ist unglaublich intensiv und die Entscheidung – oder besser die Herausforderung – es an einem Tag komplett zu lesen, war genau richtig. Zu Beginn wird der Leser direkt ins Geschehen geworfen, was die Spannung nur schürt.
Rebecca trauert ein Jahr nach dem mysteriösen Tod ihres Freundes Jim immer noch sehr. Ein Jahr lang hat sie daher auch ihre damals besten Freunde Canon, Whitley, Kipling und Martha nicht mehr gesehen. Bis heute.
5 Freunde, die unterschiedlicher nicht hätten sein können. Eine Bitch, ein Nerd, ein Freak und ein reicher Junge – Charakterisierungen die mich an den Film Breakfast Club erinnern. (den ich zufällig einen Tag zuvor mit meiner Tochter zusammen angeschaut hatte) Gerade diese Unterschiede machen die Interaktionen so spannungsreich. Ein alkoholreicher Trip zu einem Konzert endet im Strassengraben. Und während die Freunde glauben noch einemal glimpflich davon gekommen zu sein, macht sich der Wächter der Niemalswelt (einer Welt zwischen Leben und Tod) auf den Weg, sie eins Besseren zu belehren…

Der Wächter ist unheimlich – und irgendwie auch nicht. Denn er ist die Summe der Vorstellungen der 5 Freunde. Genauso wie die Niemalswelt, in der sie gefangen sind bis sie eine einstimmige Entscheidung über Leben und Tod treffen.

„Ihr seid alle tot – beinahe.“

Nach 100 Seiten war ich gespannt, wie es nun weiter geht nachdem alle 5 ihren eigenen Weg gefunden hatten, mit der nicht enden wollenden Situation klar zu kommen
„Wir waren Songs in Endlosschleife, Fliegen in einem Einmachglas, Schreie in einem Canyon, deren Echo nie verhallt.“

Ab Beginn des zweiten Teils war ich mir sicher, das Buch durchschaut zu haben. Meine Theorie war zugegebenermaßen abenteuerlich, aber als Fan von so abgedrehten Serien wie Stranger Things oder The OA nicht ganz so weit hergeholt…

Leider lag ich falsch. Die tatsächliche Auflösung war zwar überraschend, aber auch überraschend einfach. Schade. Mit etwas mehr Mut hätte hier etwas noch Größeres erschaffen werden können.
Trotzdem war das Buch überwältigend – und ergreifend. Puh! Nach diesem intensiven Lese-Marathon war ich fix und alle. Gaaanz langsam erst konnte ich in die Realität wieder finden.
Niemalswelt von Marisha Pessel ist ein packender Genre-Mix aus Mystery, Thriller und Jugendroman. Ich vergebe gerne 5 von 5 Lieblingslesesessel!
Profile Image for Nikki (Saturday Nite Reader).
405 reviews107 followers
July 17, 2018
Plot: 2.5 stars
Narrator: 4 stars

I am not sure if I would have had a different experience with the story had I chose to read it versus listen to it; there was too much going on. I found myself losing interest and it was almost a DNF had I not wanted to figure out what the heck was going on.

I will preface my review with: I typically do not read supernatural and found myself feeling the story was a bit farfetched, but still with a rather interesting concept so I was intrigued. I know I need to make up my mind.

Beatrice Hartley becomes estranged from her four best friends after the mysterious death of her boyfriend, Jim. She retreated and broke off from the group believing they each were holding a secret and knew what happened to Jim, even though the police labeled it a suicide. But, Beatrice has a few secrets of her own.

Beatrice decides to visit the group during a previously planned get together, in which they weren’t expecting her. Things are weird, but she is determined to find out what they know about Jim and that fateful night he disappeared. They attend a concert and drive home in a rainstorm. They wake the next morning – and like Groundhog Day – it’s the day before. A mysterious man appears at their door and tells them they have been in a car accident: all five of them are in limbo, called the Neverworld. Only one gets to survive and the group must vote unanimously on who that person will be. If they can’t reach a consensus – or do not vote – then they are stuck to repeat the same day over and over again (essentially stuck).

What will the group do with the time in the Neverworld? Do they ever reach an agreement? Who deserves to survive: that is the real question.

Interesting concept, right?! I just felt the build-up was rather slow; it was like I was in my own Groundhog Day. Once the pace picked up, there were too many things happening that I lost interest. If not for already reaching the halfway mark and establishing my own theory (that I needed validated), then I would have set this one aside. I may have had a different experience had I read the book versus listen to it. It is easier to disengage and let your mind wander when listening to an audiobook, so don’t give up on this one if you enjoy YA, supernatural tales.

Narrators have an especially hard job, and narrator Phoebe Strole has been one of the best I have listened to in a while. She had an even tone and I didn’t find her different character voices distracting.

To read my reviews visit: www.saturdaynitereader.com
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