The Forevers by Chris Whitaker #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the YA debut by Chris Whitaker, The Forevers.

The Forevers: The YA debut from the 2021 CWA Gold Dagger Winner by [Chris Whitaker]

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They knew the end was coming. They saw it ten years back, when it was far enough away in space and time and meaning.
The changes were gradual, and then sudden.

For Mae and her friends, it means navigating a life where action and consequence are no longer related. Where the popular are both trophies and targets. And where petty grudges turn deadlier with each passing day. So, did Abi Manton jump off the cliff or was she pushed? Her death is just the beginning of the end.

With teachers losing control of their students and themselves, and the end rushing toward all of them, it leaves everyone facing the answer to one, simple question…

What would you do if you could get away with anything?

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve had Chris Whitaker’s debut YA novel, The Forevers sitting on my TBR pile for a while now, and I’m so glad that I finally got round to it. I’m a huge fan of Chris’s writing, and although I don’t read much YA, I was intrigued by the synopsis. The rich, diverse cast of characters were so engaging and what I thought Chris did really well is that he made me care for them, right from the first few pages. We can guess what is going to happen to them at the end of the novel, but I wanted to follow their journeys and see how they would progress.

Imagine that you know that you only have a few weeks left to live. The world is on red alert. Ten years ago NASA spots an asteroid on course for our planet, which they name Selena. In Chris’s book, The Forevers, Selena is just a month away from striking our home, which will have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth. What would you do if you knew this information? Would you go out of your way to achieve all you ever wanted to achieve, in such a small space of time? Or would you simply let go of everything and go wild for your last remaining days?

For the teenagers in this story, they have to face the prospect of their own mortality very young in life. When we’re young, many of us think that we’re invincible and that’ll we’ll live forever, I know I certainly did when I was younger. Even though, they all know their fate, there still seems to be an element of normality. They are still going to school. People are still going about their normal daily lives. But as the day of judgement draws closer, emotions run high. Then the body of a young girl is found. It isn’t clear if she deliberately chose to end her life, or if someone else was behind her death. This is what drives the tension in this book. What is going on in this small tight knit community?  

Mae was a very engaging character. She is effectively in charge at home, taking care of her sister and grandmother. She has suffered more than her peers in her short life, having lost her parents at a very young age. You can see how this has made her into the character that she is now.

Chris is brilliant at bringing a small town to life. He has done this in all three of his previous books. He is brilliant at pulling you into his settings.

For me, what was the most powerful part of this book was looking at what drives these young people in their final days. You can see that even though they know they are doomed, that there is still a glimmer of hope. I really enjoyed The Forevers, it is such an engaging read and I flew through it.

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Publication date: 8th July 2021

Print length: 315 pages

The Forevers is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker #bookreview blog tour @WhittyAuthor @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I’m absolutely delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the new novel by Chris Whitaker, We Begin at the End today on my blog as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part.

We Begin at the End: Gripping. Heart-breaking. Unforgettable. Discover the most captivating crime read of 2020 by [Whitaker, Chris]

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We Begin at the End is a powerful novel about absolute love and the lengths we will go to keep our family safe. This is a story about good and evil and how life is lived somewhere in between.

‘You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved . . .’

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

MY THOUGHTS

Ever since I read Chris Whitaker’s debut novel, Tall Oaks I have always been keeping an eye out to see when his next book will be released. I described All the Wicked Girls, his second novel as a triumph, but his third book, We Begin at the End is a masterpiece. The writing really makes it a book that you will want to savour. I could have flown through it, and I really wanted to, but I wanted to take a much more leisurely pace with it as I was enjoying it so much. It is literary crime at its very best.

Once again Chris takes us to the heartlands of America and introduces us to a cast of new characters, real, every-day normal people, but they are also people who leap off the page. For me what really stood out in Chris’s debut novel was the humour and its characters. I still haven’t forgotten about Manny who I think impresses everyone when they read Chris’s debut. I think creating and developing characters, who you really care about, is Chris’s strongest writing skill.

Chris’s last two novels have taken on a much darker tone, but again, there are so many strong and compelling characters, who you will be rooting for. I felt real sympathy for Duchess and her family; the primary characters Chris’s latest novel focuses on. They are characters who you will become so attached to and this is what makes the ending all the more heartbreaking and powerful. I think what will make people feel the most towards Duchess, is how strong her need to protect her family is. This is particularly as they have already gone through dark times, which has very nearly torn them apart.

Once again Chris develops a small-town setting which feels like it could be a real place. There’s a strong sense of coming together in this town against one individual, a past resident, Vincent King, who has just returned to the area after thirty years in prison. So it’s no doubt that when another horrific crime takes place, Vincent is everyone’s number one suspect. It seems that the residents of the town have all near enough decided that he is guilty without taking much note of the evidence, and this pushes a lot of people to the brink. This time the police aren’t keen to go lightly on him, they are pushing for the death penalty and they feel sure they’ll get it granted. This is a town where emotions are running very high, and I kept thinking, as I was reading, that at any moment it was going to break and this is what made the novel so tense as well.

But above all, it is a book that is just beautifully written and it deserves to be on everyone’s reading list, you really won’t regret it. It is a book that will keep you thinking about the characters within the pages long after you have turned the final page. We Begin at the End is a cleverly woven piece of fiction and with such a strong central and supporting cast of characters. It’s brilliant!

Publisher: Zaffre

Publication date: 26th March 2020

Print length: 464 pages

We Begin at the End is available to buy:

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

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Chris Whitaker