Daniel Santos’ first book Life is Inevitable is about Brennan and Olivia, two teenagers, unhappy with their lives, who find themselves given a second chance at life, their first one ending in suicide. They meet each other in Purgatory where they are returned to life, only there is a mix-up and Brennan is Olivia and Olivia is Brennan.
As they are not returned to the same bodies, they now have to navigate the difficulties that the other faced in their life but without prior knowledge of how they reached their decision to end it all. The book ends on a cliffhanger as they are trying to reach each other, although this is filled with logistical, emotional and physical barriers that Brennan in particular has to overcome as Olivia.
The book is quite dark in places especially as we find out the reasons for Brennan’s and Olivia’s suicides. Whilst Brennan and Olivia are rounded out through the narrative, along with Jessica, if I have a criticism it is that some of the other characters felt a little two-dimensional, like Olivia and Brennan’s teachers respectively.
I liked the premise of the book and the idea of Purgatory being a train between stations. Santos’ depiction of the angel Haniel has a quirkiness to it which makes God’s envoy seem like a cross between a beneficent being and a counsellor short on social awareness and I liked this; that instead of going for the all-powerful bright being, Santos has attempted to put his own creative spin on this, making Haniel, to my mind, almost comic.
The strong points of the book are its pace which is constant throughout, and its plot thread which is easy to follow and flows. There is a lot of dialogue in the book and I felt sometimes that it could have been developed in more depth and fell a bit short of convincing on occasion: not always but sometimes. Saying this, I had a clear idea of Brennan and Olivia as characters within the book, especially Brennan and this is a good thing.
It is obvious that Santos is planning a subsequent book to develop what he has started in this one and I finished Life is Inevitable wondering what was going to happen to Brennan and Olivia in the way that it ended and where Santos would go next.
This curiosity can only be a good thing.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.