Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter


Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Pages: 480
Harlequin Teen
Published: February 23rd 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 3.81/5
My Rating: 3/5



Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

This has been a highly anticipated novel for me since I saw it floating around the blogosphere.  The synopsis immediately grabbed my attention – first life, after life, choosing sides? – it all sounded so. damn. cool.  And honestly, the idea is really cool, however it fell pretty flat.  I’m so, so disappointed by the execution of this novel.  Instead of repeating what the synopsis is saying, I’m going to jump right into this review, so get the gist of it from there and continue on!


This novel was full of action… and an endless, angsty love triangle.  The synopsis makes this sound like it would be a battle between realms and Ten fighting to figure out which side to claim.  But what it rudely (yes, rudely) left out was that Showalter was also going to run an angst-filled LOVE TRIANGLE for the entire storyline.  The love triangle began in the first chapter and soared right to the very end, and the worst part is that this novel would have been ten times better without the romance.  The concept of this series was so cool that this novel did not need a love triangle, and it’s so frustrating that Showalter chose to kill its ranking by incorporating shitty love.

I noticed a lot of similarities between Firstlife and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and not in a good way.  If you’ve read those books, you likely remember how obsessed with numbers Juliette was.  Ten is honestly not that much different, in fact they probably would have been friends if you had stuck them in a room together.  There were a lot of parallels in their personality and I feel kind of ripped off by this.  In Shatter Me, Mafi has this really beautiful and poetic way about incorporating Juliette’s obsession with numbers; and in Firstlife Showalter just makes Ten weirdly obsessed with numbers and “making up poems”. Ten and Juliette both start off being locked up, they’re both obsessed with numbers, they’re treated like shit in the asylum/prison, they meet a boy they fall in love with (both were dicks and had brown there), they meet some evil bad guy to fall in love with (who happens to both be sexy and blonde), they have to choose which “side” to be on, they’re both “special”.  You get my drift.  It just seemed poorly done and I’m rather annoyed that Showalter didn’t give any credit towards Mafi when she discussed Ten’s obsession with numbers in the interview at the end of the novel.  I really thought she got inspiration from Shatter Me because of the similarities.

The whole time we follow around this “special” 17 year old main character who refuses to choose a side and yet we are never told WHY.  WHY is Ten so against just choosing a damn side?  What is she fighting for?  What is she fighting against?  People are literally DYING left and right trying to get her to choose and she just fucking la-dee-da’s around complaining about the “pressure”.   If you’re going to write a novel about an MC opposing “the man”, at least give us a freaking reason.  We are NEVER given a solid reason for this, so Ten just ends up coming off incredibly selfish and spoiled.  Why does she need men to constantly save her? Why can’t she be a strong MC like the synopsis suggests?  Why do females constantly have to be weak in YA literature?  I don’t get it.

The plot holes are big enough to blow a tire out.  It is constantly stressed that each person must choose a side, for if they don’t they’ll end up in the Realm of Many Ends.  This is especially true when it comes to our favorite MC, Ten.   Ten dies like 3-4 times in this novel, goes to the “cursed” Realm of Many Ends, and she just gets resurrected like NOTHING happens.  It’s like “Oh you died? Insert 10 coins to keep going!”. Constantly.  And the worst part is, when she gets resurrected the first time she STILL REFUSES to choose a side, even though she saw what awaits in Many Ends.  It doesn’t make any sense.  If you go to a land of horrifying creatures and acid rain and torture, why the hell would you not do everything you can to never go there again?

I’m pretty “meh” and sad about this novel.  I would have liked to see more badass-ery and strength from Ten, less info-dumping, and just a better execution in general.  The writing wasn’t the best, but it was easy to read.  Although this novel boasts 480 pages, they go really quick.  I read this book in one day and I don’t feel like I missed anything.  I do recommend this book, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series.  I really didn’t fall in love with any of the characters and the setting just wasn’t that interesting by the end.

3/5 stars.

6 thoughts on “Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

  1. Reg @ She Latitude says:

    I skipped most of your review in case of spoilers but this is the first time I read the summary and it sounds so interesting! I’ve only read Showalter’s more adult paranormal romance books and would agree that while her writing wasn’t the best, it was easy to read – and sometimes that’s just what you need.

    Sorry to hear that you won’t be continuing with the series though and hope your next read is better. 🙂


    • cat says:

      I figured I’d highlight them in pink just in case people were curious. Summary: it’s good. The synopsis makes it sound better than it is (which SUCKS because it sounds so awesome). The love triangle plays a major role in the novel and the MC doesn’t really have any development. :). Read it if you can, though! I haven’t seen anyone else’s review on this yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. lunireads says:

    I am definitely reading this book but my expectations are pretty low to be honest. It will be interesting to see if I’m right to think that I won’t like it or if it surpasses my expectations. I love how you highlighted the spoilers in your review and you know the review in general. 😀


    • cat says:

      I wasn’t sure how the different color would work, but I’m glad you appreciated it! I think the light color also helps you skim over it quickly 🙂

      I’m not sure if I was overhyped by it? Part of me thinks yes but part of me thinks it was because of the synopsis. Let me know what you think! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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