Inspired by the true story of a teen who was killed at a railway crossing, the author weaves the tale of fourteen-year-old Paige, who, taking a shortcut alongside the tracks to avoid the school bullies, is tragically hit by a train and transported to a surreal world where she encounters Kim, who died seven years before. Convinced she is only dreaming, Paige must discover a way to return to her former life. Poignant, gripping, and full of unexpected twists and turns, Best Friends through Eternity will resonate with readers who have struggled with cultural identity, a sense of belonging, and the real meaning of home.
**I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**
When I first read the plot of this novel, I thought it would be a really interesting twist on a near-death experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations and I found myself really let down by the story.
I think the crucial problem about this book is that the characters feel really flat. There’s nothing that endears you to them or makes you connect with them. The one interesting thing is that the main character Paige, is a Chinese orphan who is adopted by two Caucasian parents. Her best friend, Jazz, is Punjabi. This is incredibly rare in the young-adult world (and in fiction in general). The lack of diversity in books is a huge problem in the publishing industry and I appreciated how Sylvia McNicoll was attempting to broaden the range of characters in young adult literature. Paige and Jazz’s cultural backgrounds are a prominent part of the story, but the discussion about their cultural identity didn’t feel natural in the context of the book. The secondary characters were very flat as well, and there were a lot of cliches surrounding the mean girl storyline.
The plot of this book was also really underdeveloped. There was a lot of potential, but it never amounted to anything. I felt like a lot of the plot was very random and some things happened without being explained or justified. Also, Kim was such a random aside and I felt like the relationship between Paige and Kim should have been further developed. The random love interest for Paige was also unnecessary and the relationship seemed to occur too fast.
Overall, the weak plot mixed with the flat, superficial characters made it really hard for me to engage with this novel. Though I appreciated that the characters were diverse and had to deal with their cultural identity, it wasn’t an enjoyable read for me.