Candlewick/Walker. Oct. 2021. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536218459.
Gr 9 Up–After she pulls herself from a train crash, Scottish teenager Dylan finds herself in an eerie wilderness, alone except for the mysterious, handsome Tristan, whom she feels compelled to follow. But has Dylan truly survived the crash unharmed? And where is Tristan leading her? Beyond an imaginative rendering of the afterlife, McFall’s work is a scrupulously exact rendering of a particular type of melodramatic teenage romantic fantasy, which will delight or aggravate readers according to their mood. The fantasy is that the unexceptional heroine somehow accrues the everlasting love and devotion of an exceptional hero. In this better-written version of the Twilight Bella-Edward dynamic, Tristan is ageless where Dylan is young, strong when she is weak, knowledgeable where she is naive. More positively, Tristan pushes Dylan to be resilient and to become independent of him, even as he craves her attention and the space she makes for him to define himself apart from his immortal role as a shepherd of the dead. While Tristan initially seems to overestimate Dylan’s special empathy (Would she be so interested in him if he weren’t hot?), Dylan’s love inspires her to grow in physical, moral, and emotional strength. Just what readers might learn about functional human relationships is up for debate. However, McFall’s depiction of the protagonists’ hunger to be loved, Dylan’s awkward self-consciousness about her body, and her burgeoning attraction to Tristan is meticulous, excruciating, and believable.
VERDICT An escapist romance of limitless love across boundaries of life and death.

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