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Review: The Forevers by Chris Whitaker

Review: The Forevers by Chris Whitaker

‘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?’

The Forevers is a story that looks at the experience of a group of young people in the final month of their lives, for they and the rest of the world knows that humans are soon to be wiped out by the arrival of an asteroid – that has been named Selena – that will crash into the Earth. Society has had ten years to try and come to terms with the impending extinction of the human race and has made numerous attempts to try and divert or destroy the asteroid, but time has now run out and there is nothing to be done. Not all hope has been lost, but it is in short supply, and there are those who are capitalising on the building of bunkers and other supposed survival strategies, while others use the impending end as an excuse to behave as they wish without the threat of consequences. For Mae and her friends, life has become about what boundaries they can push, shifting social hierarchies, and trying to find meaning in their lives before Selena arrives. The Forevers addresses a number of difficult and sensitive topics, and isn’t an easy read in parts, but it is one that very swiftly draws the reader in and becomes difficult to put down. It’s particularly interesting in its structure and use of flashbacks, including how information about the past and the situation surrounding Abi Manton is slowly revealed.

Mae’s devotion to her sister, Stella, is one of the most prominent threads of the narrative and seems to be the stability that she returns to time after time, as everything and everyone else around her starts to slip out of control (including her own habits and risk taking). Her interactions with her little sister are different to those she has with others, the more despairing side of herself hidden so that she can lend a sense of safety and reassurance to her, which is something that she doesn’t appear to have experienced since the deaths of their parents. She does her best to be a mother to Stella, and their scenes were among my favourite of the book. It’s through Mae and Stella that the reader learns something of the past too, including the various Saviour missions that have been sent to try and destroy Selena before it reaches Earth. Even knowing that Selena is still on-course and the end is inevitable from the very beginning of the story – and therefore none of the Saviours can have worked – there is a sense of hope with what is learned about each one, much like that which the characters would have experienced, only to have this swiftly dashed when errors are made and plans don’t work.

It’s interesting how society in The Forevers tries to maintain a sense of normalcy and there seems to be encouragement to continue as if nothing is different, which, on the surface, feels as if it would be unlikely, yet may well be exactly what the young people in the story need to cope with what is approaching and how they feel about their inevitable fate and that of those around them. This is not to say that everyone involved in aiming to maintain this structure is successful, for many of the adults in the story do anything but set a good example for those in their care and in-fact have been falling prey to the darker side of their natures for many, many years before the immediacy of Selena’s arrival begins to have a bigger impact on mental health. There are few good examples for Mae and her friends to look to for support, and, in many instances, it feels as if the younger generation is handling the idea of their rapidly approaching deaths better than the adults – or perhaps it’s that the adults are so used to exercising a sense of power and control that, when faced with defiance and their own crumbling stability, they are less able to adapt.

The Forevers is out today from Hot Key Books! Thank you to the publisher for sending me a proof copy for review.