Cover of the 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare. A translucent girl stands in the woods at night

About the Book

Title: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare
Published: 2014

Cover Story: Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood
Drinking Buddy:
For the Fifty-Seventh Time, No!
Testosterone Level:
The Night Chicago Died
Talky Talk:
Talky Talk
Bonus Factors:
“A Sound of Thunder
Bromance Status:
Blast From the Past

Cover Story: Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood

And I took the bland cover with the faceless girl.

The Deal:

So Alex’s life kind of sucks. Her younger sister, Claire, is dying of cancer. Everyone at school thinks Alex is a weird girl who only likes to tinker with electronics and suffers from weird blackouts. She’s starting to get in trouble with her teachers.

But there’s something she’s never told anyone. During those blackouts (which don’t seem to take up any actual time), she travels to a different place…and a different year. Are they just dreams? Hallucinations? Or something else?

It’s only when she meets Porter, an older man who seems to know Alex well, that things are explained. Alex is a Descender. She’s capable of traveling back in time to her past lives. But someone is chasing her through the circuits of time. Someone evil. Only Porter can show her how to control her power. She just needs to trust him.

Oh, and every time Alex travels to another era, she runs into a boy named…well, something different each time. But he has the most dreamy blue eyes, so she starts calling him ‘Blue’. Why is he there every time? Can they make a date sometime? Are you free in 1910?

Drinking Buddy: For the Fifty-Seventh Time, No!

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

So Porter takes Alex to Limbo, where he tells her she has the ability to not pass on to the Afterlife after she dies, but to return to life as a new person.

Alex never asks about the Afterlife, what it is, or if it’s a bad thing she’s missing it. She blindly follows Porter in whatever he asks of her, except when it interferes with her dates with Blue.

An evil genius seems to have mastered world domination, but Alex is more worried about that cute real-life boy Jensen, and whether or not he might kind of like her.

Alex isn’t that exciting of a character. Even when she’s doing something badass like robbing a train, it’s not really her doing it, but her past life person, who kind of takes over. So…yeah. Like that episode of Quantum Leap where Sam leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald’s body and starts getting all loopy.

She’s also annoyingly naive at times. She’s enraged when she sees the whites/colored entrances in a 1961 restaurant, but doesn’t give a thought to the racial divide when she’s in 1927 and earlier.

Testosterone Level: The Night Chicago Died

So Alex travels to the middle of a 1920s gang war in Chicago, complete with mobsters shooting Tommy guns out of a limo and storefront speakeasies that get bombed. She jumps into the middle of an 1876 train robbery where she’s a very active participant. She goes to 1961 to recover some art stolen by the Nazis, and to a more recent year to fight the evil time-traveling genius.

And…that’s all. C’mon, she has 57 lives, I don’t want to read about her talking to Porter in some Italian restaurant. She mentions having been at Jamestown when they were so hungry they resorted to cannibalism; on a voyage to the New World; at the 1904 World’s Fair; and being a pregnant Irish widow. But we only get snippets of those lives. I feel like I was mislead by the title.

Talky Talk: Talky Talk

There was a lot of Alex and Porter sitting around talking. Or Alex talking to other people. The rules of this universe were complicated, but felt hastily thrown together. And then the book kind of just petered out. Alex says in chapter one that her story begins not with a bang, but a whimper. And it kind of ends that way too.

There were also a lot of little annoying things:

Alex’s grandfather says he rode the Ferris wheel at the St. Louis World’s Fair, which would make him over 110 years old.

Alex takes over the body of a Danish girl and starts to speak Danish. Literally. All the dialog is written in Danish. The author also provides a translation, but I don’t need pages and pages of language I cannot understand.

The whole ‘sister dying of cancer’ subplot seemed tacked on.

Jensen (the cute boy from real life) didn’t seem necessary, what with her obsession with Blue and all.

The main villain was over the top. He’s a master of time and space, so Porter and Alex ride the time streams to steal his money to annoy him.

It never seems to occur to Alex that with all these lives happening so close together in time, she always dies before reaching middle age.

None of these were deal breakers, but added together made for a bland read.

Bonus Factor: “A Sound of Thunder”

Cover of 'A Sounds of Thunder' by Ray Bradbury. A butterfly on a maroon background

That’s a short story where a time traveler steps on a butterfly, causing massive repercussions in the present. Porter warns Alex about this sort of thing. When she kisses Blue in 1927, Porter predicts that now Blue may have a thing for her and could miss connecting with the woman who he’s supposed to marry, thus wiping out all his children and grandchildren.

Or not.

Bromance Status: Blast From the Past

Those were some crazy times…but not really good times. See you around.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no money nor Danish lessons for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.