The main characters from Everlost have all been busy pursuing their perceived missions: Mary continues to collect souls and help them find ways to pass the time. Nick continues to thwart Mary by helping kids get to where they are going, and Mikey & Allie continue searching for Allie’s family. Of the principal characters, Mary is the most determined to be the supreme leader of all souls in Everlost, and she decides that she must defeat Nick once and for all. Mikey & Allie meet up with a group of skinjackers during their journey, and not only does Allie learn new jacking techniques, she also discovers how it is that she possesses this particular skill in the first place.
As events progress, Mary and Nick each recruit large numbers of afterlights to their respective causes and form alliances with other organized vapors as well. Eventually, all three primary groups are brought together at an important nexus that will change everyone involved, quite possibly for eternity.
Neal Shusterman’s second installment of the Skinjacker trilogy is every bit as creative and fascinating as the first. Further details of how these deceased young people arrive and how they each acquire their individual talents are explored in greater depth as well. At times, there are excellent metaphorical dramas that mirror contemporary social and moral issues, providing fabulous insight for teenage readers into our current world.
Yet, there is an increasing level of disturbing imagery on display in this volume of the story. It is not graphic, but the unsettling events are crystal clear and, in my opinion, grim enough to make one pause. My 12-year-old son and I read the entire book aloud to each other, trading off chapters, and we were both surprised (not quite shocked, but nearly so) at some of the revelations we experienced. We both agree that were it not for our intense curiosity at how all of the cliffhangers are going to be resolved, we would seriously consider not reading the third book (due in late spring 2011).
Rated: Moderate. There are fewer than five mild terms, but the dark themes presented are quite strong for a youthful audience.