Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a “knock-off Narnia” that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants.
Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again.
Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books on May 16th 2019. I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings; bullying, homophobic comments, mentions of suicide, mentions of eat disorders, agoraphobia, mentions of assault.
When I started reading Last Bus to Everland I wasn’t sure what I expected, maybe a light read about a boy who discovers a secret world where he can escape all of his real-life problems, and while at its heart that’s what Last Bus to Everland was there were a lot of deeper parts to this book as well. Brody had a lot he was struggling with, but so did his family and his friends. We see them all grow in this books and the representation and character development were all incredible.
“And as I follow Nico and his friends, I see something that makes my heart stop.
Edinburgh has disappeared.
Instead of streets and cars and blurry neon, I’m looking down at a vast green valley.”
Brody feels invisible. His parents can never spare much time for him before his perfect older brother or his outgoing younger sister take the spotlight, he’s not smart and not doing well in school, he’s being bullied and he only has one friend who seems to be more concerned with her own life than his. Life has nothing to offer him, until he meets Nico and Brody finds himself invited to Everland at 11:21pm that Thursday night.
All of a sudden his real life is just something he has to get through until he can go back to Everland at 11:21pm on Thursdays. He pulls away from his friend and no longer makes any effort with his school work. Everland is the perfect escape, but Brody realises that his real problems aren’t going away, if anything they’re getting worse and worse. Then the doors that lead into Everland start fading and Brody needs to decide what side of the door he wants to be one when his door fades.
“It’s just…you ken those Pinterest Fail memes? Like, a photo of some amazing three-tier cake and then somebody’s crappy attempt at copying it, all sad and lopsided? I feel like everyone sees me as the sad, lopsided version of you.”
Brody feels really insecure, especially next to his older brother who is genius-level smart and on the road to Oxbridge. There’s nothing much Brody is passionate about and he knows he’s not going to be able to get into university. On top of that his parents are suffering financially, with his dad unable to work and his mum unable to pick up the shifts she once was, and a lot of weight is falling on Brody and the whole family.
At his lowest Brody is forced to give up his beloved cat and part of him hates his parents for what they’re putting the family through and he hates his brother for being so perfect. Brody is constantly measuring himself up to his siblings and finding himself lacking. Everland is the only place where that isn’t the case and it’s all-too easy to see why, when the doors start disappearing, Brody find himself wanting to stay.
“There’s another stab of disappointment in my chest, but I push it back. Nico and me are friends. Not ‘just’ friends—friends. That might not be exactly what I was hoping for, but it’s not any lesser either.”
The relationship between Nico and Brody isn’t solely a romantic one. At first Nico has a boyfriend and Brody is happy for them to remain friends because for Brody Nico’s friendship it isn’t a consolation prize. There is a lot about Nico Brody admires; he’s confident in himself, outgoing, and he has an incredible passion for his art, but Nico has a lot of problems as well. Brody quickly realises he can’t help Nico the way Nico, Everland and everyone he’s met in Everland has helped Brody and that realisation was heartbreaking to read.
All of the characters who find Everland are running away from something in their real lives. Everland offers them an escape but their problems are still there when they return. However in the end Everland does help Brody; it isn’t a solution but, along with the people he meets there, Everland allows Brody to grow more confident in himself and come out the other side ready to be himself and open up about what he’s feeling.
“I stop. I don’t know how to finish that. But that doesn’t mean I deserve any less? But that doesn’t mean I am any less? I think all of those things, but I walk back down the road and leave them unsaid. Because though I might know otherwise deep down, right now, it doesn’t feel like it’s true.”
I loved Brody’s relationship with his family. he doesn’t get on well with his brother, and it seems like every conversation he has with Jake ends up with Jake saying the wrong thing and Brody storming off offended. Brody has a decent relationship with his sister and his parents but a lot of time he feels pushed aside. That being said it’s clear his parents, his brother and sister love him, they were all willing to help Brody when he was struggling, he just needed to be willing to see that and reach out for them.
One thing I wish had been expanded on a little more was Everland itself. We never get a full explanation as to what Everland is – why it only appeared at 11:21pm on Thursday and why its doors starting disappearing – but I didn’t mind the lack of explanation because it reminded me of the magical realism books I read where the magic is simply magic. That’s what Everland felt like to me, magic, but I do wish we’d seen more of it. Everland was such a vast place and I feel like along with Brody we only got to explore small sections of it.
“I found Everland. I found my people.” He smiles and gives my shoulder a little push. “And now you have, too.”
Last Bus to Everland wasn’t a book I expected, but it was a book I really enjoyed. There’s some incredible representation; Brody and Nico are gay, Brody’s dad has agoraphobia and his brother suffers from anxiety/panic attacks, there’s LGBT side characters and another with an eating disorder. It was a lot to fit in one book but it worked in Last Bus to Everland, and a lot of the conversations characters had highlighting what they felt were incredibly emotional and really hit me hard.
Have you read Last Bus to Everland, or is it still on your TBR list?
Did you expect Last Bus to Everland to be a light read, and were you surprised when it was more hard-hitting than that? What did you think of the Everland setting? Did you enjoy Brody’s character development, and the way his relationship with his family changed throughout the book?
Have you read any of Sophie Cameron’s other releases, which is your favourite?