No One Here Is Lonely by Sarah Everett

Review by Emily-Anne Mikos

Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, February 2019

343 pages, hardcover, $23.99 CAD, 978-0-533-53869-4

Ages 14-17, Grades 9-12

Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction

“I’m Will,” the voice on the other end of the line says.
I know, I think.
My heart is racing in my chest, my palms sweating.
What am I doing?
Lacey was right that we shouldn’t sign up. That this wasn’t for us. For me.
“Hi, I’m…”
“Eden,” he finishes for me.
When I tell him he doesn’t sound like a ghost, he laughs.
A full, hearty laugh that makes me picture him with his head thrown back, maybe clutching his side as well.
This is Will, I suddenly realize.
Will laughing.
Will existing somewhere, never gone.
“What exactly does a ghost sound like?” Will asks. “I’ll do my best impression.”
He proceeds to make a bunch of windy whoo sounds, and I can’t help it. I burst out laughing.
“With all due respect, can I ask why you thought I’d sound like a ghost?”
“Because,” I start, but I can’t make the rest of the words come out.
Because you’re dead.
Almost as if the words passed from my lips, he answers, and his voice is a whisper. “I’m right here.”

When technology begins to bridge the gap between life and death, how far can one go before they lose sight of reality entirely?

No One Is Lonely Here is filled with so many twists and turns that the reader quickly becomes confused about the novel’s central conflict. The story follows Eden, an eighteen-year-old whose crush of four years suddenly dies right before graduation. We see Eden grieve over the fact that she never took a chance to be with Will before he died. Then we learn that Eden’s mother is having an affair, and the entire novel shifts focus. Suddenly Eden is also grieving the family she thought she had, and the person she thought her mother was. Then, on top of all of this, Eden’s best friend completely ditches her to hangout with other friends. Not only does Eden have to grieve her crush and her family, but also the reality of losing her best friend. When Eden learns that Will signed up for In Good Company, a service that can create an online persona of the deceased that can be called anytime, she starts to call just to have someone to talk to, even if that someone is dead.

While loss is a powerful obstacle for Eden to overcome, the presence of all these events coinciding at the same time make the novel itself seem unfocused. Eden’s emotions rarely stay still; one moment she will be so angry with her mother she decides to get a tattoo, and in the next paragraph she’ll be at work flirting with Will on the phone like it’s a regular day. One chapter she’ll be imagining kissing Will, thinking that she’s fallen in love—and then she’ll get drunk and wonder what it’s like to kiss Oliver, Lacey’s twin brother.

We never get a chance to sit with Eden as she goes through her rollercoaster of emotions; they are constantly changing depending on which loss she is mourning in the moment, and because of this we never truly get to see her completely come to terms with any of her losses. Eden doesn’t confront her mother about the affair, or Lacey about not being there when she needed her. We don’t even get to see Lacey’s anger about Eden’s interest in her twin brother. As a result, Eden’s journey feels like it isn’t fully earned.

There are some beautiful moments that stand out, like when Eden decides to skinny dip and feels Will in the water with her, or when she reminisces about skating with her mom and the connection they could have had. But neither of these moments are ever addressed again, making the story itself feel unfinished.

Although this wasn’t my kind of narrative, if you’re the kind of reader that loves romance novels that are always changing and moving or looking for novels that deal with the unknown of a post-high school life, No One Here Is Lonely might be the kind of story for you.

Emily-Anne Mikos is a graduating student from the UBC creative writing program. She is currently writing her own novel and hopes to continue writing stories about women that don’t have saviour complexes. She has decidedly abandoned real life for fictional worlds where bees are still thriving. #Savethebees.

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