MG Buehrlen – The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare

mgbuehrlen-the57livesofalexwayfareFor as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

The ideas of reincarnation and past life memories have always fascinated me. On the one hand, the idea is terribly romantic, especially if you also include the notion of soul mates, on the other it also provides a sense of fairness—all those people who lead tragically short, unhappy lives get a chance to experience happiness, while those who have blackened their karma in this life get to work it off in the next. Thus, when I read the synopsis for The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare I was immediately captivated. Here was a look at reincarnation as a form of time-travel, how cool is that? And MG Buehrlen doesn’t disappoint with her debut novel. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare was a blast. 

Narrator and protagonist of the novel is seventeen-year-old Alex Wayfare. She’s an outsider, a loner, and a bit of a tech geek. She’s also incredibly funny, part of an incredibly close-knit family, and very protective of her little sister Audrey who has cancer. Her presence is undeniable and clear from the first page. I loved the way Buerhlen let her tell her story. While Alex is wonderful, she isn’t perfect and she knows it; she’s rebellious due to the situation at home and mostly happy to be an outsider. While discovering the truth about her visions and her Descender abilities is a major part of her development in this novel, an aspect that I loved even more is the way Alex’s friendship with Jensen develops and how this makes her realise how much she needs a friend in Base Life, the Descender term for your current life.

Alex’s home life is both wonderful and awful. She and her family are close-knit, with her parents loving and stable, her grandparents who help care for them, and two younger sisters who she adores and has the usual sisterly spats with. At the same time, her beloved sister Aubrey has cancer, a cancer that is hard to treat and she’s watching her die by inches, which is something that hangs over her family and her life like a threatening cloud that just won’t dissipate. So when she actually becomes friendlier with Jensen, it’s a nice way of her building a support network independent of her family. Similarly, when she meets Porter and discovers about her abilities and who he is to her, it is another connection to support her. And of course, there is Blue—mysterious, lovely Blue. As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of the insta-love trope, but reincarnated soul mates is one of the few versions of it that will sway me every time. I spent most of the second part of the book wondering who Blue was. Was Blue Jensen? But if so why wouldn’t Alex recognise him? It’s a mystery that continues to intrigue.

The plot is rather cool with the bad guy being very powerful in society and pervading more than one aspect of Alex’s life. I liked the way the Descender abilities were built up and how they varied in Alex’s case. The garden Porter built her in Limbo to contain all her soulmarks was lovely and Limbo itself is an interesting creation, with its different areas and the rules that apply there. The glimpses we got from Alex’s previous lives – we only meet five of her incarnations and learn of a couple more – were rather intriguing and I’m looking forward to discovering more of Alex’s past lives in the rest of the series. My favourite of the ones here we see was her time in the Wild West as Cora Delaney. I loved her story and the echoes of Cora’s character that come through in Alex’s behaviour. Her time spent in her other lives doesn’t leave her untouched; she brings back what are known as residuals, abilities, skills, and characteristics she didn’t possess before descending to her previous life. The concept of residuals was very cool and the possibilities are many and interesting.

The ending of book was great, though it was a cliff hanger of epic proportions and Buehrlen killed me by ending the story there. Suffice it to say I can’t wait for the next book. I adored Alex, Blue, Jensen, and Alex’s family and I had a fantastic time with The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare. If you enjoy supernatural YA and some romance in your reading, then you’ll definitely enjoy meeting Alex and her 56 other lives.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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  • Lynne

    Is this an adult or young adult novel please?

    • It’s a young adult novel, Lynne :)

  • I enjoyed this one a lot too. I’m a little bit undecided how I feel about the whole soulmates thing, though. On one hand, very romantic concept, and people play with it all the time, though here at least it was used in a broader sense than just “two people who are meant to hook up”. On the other hand, it plays right into the insta-love trope that I generally dislike.

    Still, I enjoyed the book very much and can’t wait for the sequel!

    • Yeah, same here. Though let’s be honest, lifebonds are the ultimate insta-love variations, even if they are often torturous until they get acknowledged ;-)