I’ve been a YA (young adult) fiction nerd since I was about 11 years old, and as such, I’ve read so many books in this genre that I sometimes feel like I’ve seen all it has to offer. Yet every so often, a book comes along that surprises me by completely changing the game and revitalizing the genre. Most recently, that book is Everless, author Sara Holland’s debut novel and the first in an anticipated duology.
Everless takes place in the kingdom of Sempera where time is currency forged from blood into iron. As a result, the wealthiest citizens can live for hundreds of years, while the poorest are forced to cut their lives short by selling their time to pay taxes or care for loved ones.
Jules Ember, our protagonist, finds herself in a desperate situation at the start of the novel when she learns her father is gravely ill. To earn more time for him, she takes a job at the aristocratic estate of Everless, where she gets wrapped up in the politics of the wealthy Gerling family and discovers shocking secrets about her past that will ultimately shape her future and that of the entire kingdom…
Okay, so it sounds like a lot of other YA books. Average girl goes from destitution to being swept into a world of intrigue and glamour, learns she’s actually not-so-average after all, and then ends up with a destiny in which she must save the entire world. I won’t lie, this book definitely falls into some of the usual YA tropes, but can it even be considered YA without the infamous love triangle?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s why this book rocks. Two words: World building. One of the most impressive aspects of Holland’s book is the unique world in which it takes place. Probably my biggest complaint about most YA books right now, particularly of the fantasy category, is that they brush over world development and instead focus solely on plot, which is a shame because how am I supposed to understand what’s going on if I can’t understand the rules and workings of the world I’m spending so much time in?
Not Everless. The kingdom of Sempera is a place with a distinct personality, with its own history and set of rules that not only develop the story but transport you as a reader. This, at least for me, is one of the top things I always look for when I pick up a YA novel, and it’s what makes this genre so fun and unique.
Holland also does a great job at keeping things interesting throughout the reading experience. Everless is filled with many plot twists (I won’t name them here, obviously) that consistently left me surprised and kept me engaged from start to finish. Even though it follows those classic tropes as mentioned earlier, it is never predictable, and it leaves you in a place where you can’t wait to pick up the sequel as soon as you finish the last page. Overall, Holland seems to understand her reader intimately and provides them with an experience that both breaks expectations and exceeds them, which is refreshing to see in a YA novel.
If you’re thinking of reading Everless, now is the perfect time to get started. The sequel, Evermore, just came out on December 31, so if you love it (which I hope you will), you won’t have to wait long to keep reading.
Grace Beltowski is a junior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing and a minor in creative writing, so she really does not like to read or write. Her many talents include making chocolate chip pancakes, stalking her favorite YA authors on Instagram and scaring people with her inflatable dinosaur costume.