Rachel's Reviews > Neverworld Wake

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
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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: (view spoiler)

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.

Martha can’t simply be a smart girl, she has to be THE GIRL WHO IS THE NEXT STEPHEN HAWKING SHE’S JUST SO SMART AND THE SMARTEST PERSON YOU WILL EVER MEET and did I mention HER FAVORITE BOOK IS THIS REALLY INTELLECTUAL NOVEL THAT’S 1400 PAGES LONG because only THE NEXT STEPHEN HAWKING WOULD READ A BOOK LIKE THAT.

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. (view spoiler)

The Ending
I will put this under a spoiler since what I’m about to say will ruin the book for you: (view spoiler)
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Reading Progress

March 18, 2018 – Shelved (Other Hardcover Edition)
March 18, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read (Other Hardcover Edition)
June 30, 2018 – Started Reading
June 30, 2018 – Shelved
June 30, 2018 –
page 30
9.17% "1) I LOVED her last book Night Film so much that my expectations are high and 2) I'm from rhode island and this book is set in my state"
July 1, 2018 –
page 92
28.13%
July 2, 2018 –
page 114
34.86% "What bothers me is that all the characters are The Most. The MC is the Most Nicest, whitley is The Most Richest & Most Extreme Temper, Martha is Most Like Stephen Hawking, Jim is the Most Intense & Most Loved, etc. like come on..."
July 2, 2018 –
page 158
48.32% "These characters are so goddamn annoying. Most of the first 100 pages could have been cut down to a fraction. And I'm really supposed to believe powerful billionaires sent their kids to some school in Warwick, rhode island? WARWICK?? As someone from rhode island... WE GREW UP CALLING IT WAR"WACK". lmao, no."
July 2, 2018 –
page 183
55.96% "first the author says a character is reading a book only her and some internet geeks have read, then 3 pages later that book is award winning by one of the best fantasy authors of all time.. really? WHY IS THIS BOOK SO SLOPPY??!!!"
July 3, 2018 –
page 234
71.56% "was the editor drunk when editing this? was there even a budget for an editor? i've made a list of 5 plot inconsistencies... this book fucking sucks! what happened to the author? how can she go from night film to this?"
July 3, 2018 –
page 327
100.0% "the hell with this book. there was a glimmer of a good story in here, a little of it shone toward the end but overall it was a mess. review coming when i get home, I already have a draft of it lol"
July 3, 2018 – Shelved as: books-of-2018
July 3, 2018 – Shelved as: tcf2018
July 3, 2018 – Shelved as: tower-teams-vi
July 3, 2018 – Shelved as: women-2018
July 3, 2018 – Shelved as: women-only
July 3, 2018 – Finished Reading
October 26, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-releases
October 26, 2018 – Shelved as: science-fiction
October 26, 2018 – Shelved as: young-adult
October 26, 2018 – Shelved as: thriller

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Elke (new)

Elke What a great review Rachel, I really enjoyed reading that! As the book was never on my list, I had no problem reading the whole thing with spoilers, which only confirms my first impression that this is no book for me.
I once read the author's Special Topics... and thought it was just OK, but not really my kind of story, too much unnecessary detail and 'sideshows' I guess. And probably I've become too impatient with books over the years.
Night Film I only put on my 'maybe' list because of the book's length - which hints at too much rambling as well (Evans' review also suggests that), though there are also some raving reviews (e.g. yours). So I guess it will stay there forever but never be read at all...


message 2: by Nick (new)

Nick Great detailed review showing every flaw. One to avoid!


Rachel Thank you both! I feel bad leaving a bad review for a book to be honest, especially by an author who I was very excited about. Like I wrote above, Night Film was one of my favorite books. I had been anticipating her next release so for it to be this one is just a massive disappointment. :(


message 4: by Sassyquatch (new) - added it

Sassyquatch It's not your nanowrimo project, but I'm pretty sure you hit somewhere around 2,000 words in that negative review! I think I'm going to remove this from my to-read list based on what you've said here.


message 5: by Elke (new)

Elke Rachel wrote: "Thank you both! I feel bad leaving a bad review for a book to be honest, especially by an author who I was very excited about. Like I wrote above, Night Film was one of my favorite books. I had bee..."

It's even more of a disappointment when you start a book with high expectations, I've experienced that myself a couple of times. Don't feel bad, especially as you brought up so many details from the book to back up your criticism instead of just shouting "I hate it" without explaining why. It shows you really gave thought to it.

Honestly, I always read the bad reviews first, and sometimes I want to read a book anyway or even because of the things said there (tastes differ and all that). With this, however, I agree to all points that you mentioned as not being my kind of book either.


Dane Cruz I wish I had actually read this review before I started reading this book. I agree so much with all your points!! I am so frustrated with this book, and now I've ended up leaving my own negative review haha.


Sophie Interesting to see how people's perceptions of books differ. While you felt like the characters were all stereotypes, to me it seemed like that was Bee's perspective at first and a big part of her personal growth was to understand that she was wrong. While you hated how she described Jim and their undying love, I perceived it as a realistic example of a teen girl/young adult idolizing her dead boyfriend, then learning to come to terms with the fact that actually, he wasn't so perfect and actually, they might not have lasted as a couple. Anyway, no hate, I just thought it was interesting how our perceptions differ and I still understand what you're saying! :) Also sadly have to agree with what you said about those inconsistencies. I noticed those, too.


Jessica Another plot hole... if everything resets after every wake and items that were used are still in working order and back where they originally were (cell phone, bee pin), how on earth was Martha writing endless notes in a notebook? Wouldn’t the notes get “erased” after every wake? Aghhh... this book had so much potential, I really wanted to like it, but completely agree with everything you say here!


Katie I thought I missed something in the ending. I listened to it on audiobook, so I thought maybe I spaced out for a minute. I thought Bea said that she voted for Martha in the final vote—therefore, the vote was NOT unanimous, so how did Bea survive? But this was never mentioned again?? This is still bothering me....


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