Berg’s Book Club – Existence

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This week is the last Wednesday of December and I have decided to participate in the Popsugar reading challenge of 2018. So for this week, I am going to review a book by Abbi Glines: Existence. I am also going to tell you about the Popsugar challenge.

Book Review

Bookpost Rating

First is the book: Existence is about the girl Death falls in love with. I read the book before and remember enjoying it at the time. It’s not a bad book but doesn’t hold my interest like the first time I read it.

 

Here’s a short synopsis:

Pagan Moore has seen souls her whole life but usually ignore them. Then she is stalked by Death and his coworkers, Gee and Ky. Pagan won’t be left alone until she dies but Death has fallen in love with her and refuses to kill her.

I like the concept that a creature most fear, such as Death, also has a weakness and ends up falling in love. However, you’d expect the protagonist to Death, because him falling in love is so rare and unheard of, his experience and journey would be an exciting read. Instead, we are lumbered with his love interest, Pagan: an American high-school girl – fine, the story could still work.

So why does Death – who has been around since the beginning of time – fall in love with a high-school girl. Well, Pagan can see wondering souls, the souls that were too terrified to see what came after Death. So they basically become lost and mute ghosts.

These people are actually interesting, I can imagine a lot of fan-fiction coming out of wandering souls and I’d have liked to know more about them – if anyone does have fan-fiction on them, I’m willing to read.

It is Pagan’s ability to see souls that makes Death fall in love with her.

Now, this story is set in modern day and Death is in the form of a High-School student, he’s been around since the beginning of time, so he’s billions of years old and he has never seen anyone who can see ghosts before? Or is it like his co-worker said, that she’s brave too? Personally, I think he’d have come across plenty of ghost-seers that were brave, so maybe it was their age or gender… only he’s billions of years old. I give Glines the benefit of the doubt because she needed something that made it so that he fell in love with Pagan.

Death and Pagan meet like you’d expect. She was going to die but Death refused to take her soul. This is where we then have a confused and distraught Pagan for the rest of the book. Not because she nearly died but because she doesn’t know who Death is, she starts to have feelings for him and then hates him when he refuses to tell her who he is. Surely if you nearly died and ended up in hospital, that would give you some PTSD?

She is even more confused (rightly so) when Death takes the form of a teenage human by the name Dank Walker and learns he is a famous rock star. Let’s ignore that this ancient being is a teenager and give Glines the benefit of the doubt and talk about the name Dank Walker.  Growing up, I heard the word ‘dank’ used a lot for something that was good or excellent, usually followed by the word puka.  However, I googled for alternate meanings because I’m aware the US has different slang to the UK and I visited Urbandictionary.com.  Here are the top two meanings:

Also an expression requently used by stoners and hippies for something of high quality.

and:

Dank, is an adjective which is over-used by people in general and mostly by people trying to appear cool to their stoner friends. Dank means dark, sticky, gooey, and potent.

Behindthename would probably have been able to find a name with similar meanings – the link directs to names that have the meaning ‘hot’ or ‘dark’. So every time I read the name Dank Walker, I kept thinking of it meaning hot walker, which I think Abbi was trying to do, but it could have been more subtle. Then add to the fact that a 4 billion-year-old being falls in love with a kid, he just happens to look the same age as her. Did he always look like a teenager or is that a form he took for Pagan? If he always looked like a teenager, why?

Obviously, Death breaking the rules is going to have consequences. The consequences are that Pagan are stalked by similar ‘souls’ to Death (because Pagan is unaware throughout the whole book that Dank is Death) who are trying to kill her.=. Meanwhile, Pagan must be the slowest teenager on the planet, because even after being nearly killed by a ghost that is meant to ‘right a wrong’ she still doesn’t know what the wrong is!

I mean it’s not until the last few chapters that she finally knows he is Death because … wait, Death’s co-worker tells her! So she didn’t do any of the hard work to find out herself, I mean she tries to speak to souls and gives up when she learns they can’t speak. Even after witnessing a death and seeing him there, she doesn’t know or she’s denying it, but considering it’s in the first person and so we are reading her thoughts, I think she must be the stupidest straight-a student possible. I’ve read this book before but I suspected he was Death after she nearly died and it just gets more obvious as the story goes on. Not really that subtle. Many teenagers surround themselves with supernatural ideas even if they don’t believe the supernatural, so she really should have started suspecting sooner and the synopsis on Goodreads even state it’s Death she falls in love with so it’s not as if it was a mystery to the reader.

She has two best friends, Wyatt and Miranda. Miranda is the classic beautiful rich friend in love stories that drool over all the cute guys and even though it’s not stated, I assume she’s blonde because she is a very cliché character. Wyatt is her boyfriend and essentially her pack-mule, all he does is teases Pagan and carry Miranda’s bags, they don’t develop as characters at all.

Then there is her boyfriend, Lief – who was the reason she almost died, the first time.  But she loves Death, not him. I don’t know why Death’s co-worker thinks Pegan is brave. She’s a coward. She runs away, constantly nearly getting herself killed in the process when her love life even gets the whiff of complication. I’m no expert, but isn’t love supposed to be complicated? I’ve read the second book of this in the past and the name Lief means ‘heir’ – maybe this story would have worked if Glines combined this book and the one about Leif together, that’s the problem with trilogies (it was a trilogy when I read them anyway) the author gets lost in trying to make the books last as long as possible whereas combining them down would have worked and characters get developed – most of the time.

Then when Death leaves her to live her life, she sulks in her bedroom until her mother gets her sectioned for PTSD – although the symptoms seemed related more to depression for me. Pagan agrees to go, not to get better but to escape from Death.

I think through this reread, the one thing that annoys me is that Death says he cannot read Pagan’s thoughts, just how she feels but the reactions he gives to her individual thoughts are not the reactions you’d give to people you’d only feel. He can answer questions that pop up in her head… If you can answer the question and to the point, and if you can throw thoughts into her own head… I think you can read thoughts. This skill is used rather than have a dialogue with the characters, because if Pagan talks to an invisible body, she is going to seem insane, and if she talks to a rock star there would be questions as to how she met him. It’s just lazy, you need to find a challenging way to get the two to talk even if… no, especially if it is a risk to the protagonist. That’s just good storytelling – that itself could have sent Pagan to the mental health hospital without getting her diagnosed with PTSD.

Throughout the book, there are also songs written by ‘Dank,’ I’m not a song expert but it seemed there were a few times when Abbi pressed the Control, Alt and P button a few too many times, sometimes it came across as dialogue and other times as prose, I didn’t feel I could hear it like I can Tolkien songs but as I say, I’m not an expert on songwriting.

It’s a quick read for someone who is looking for a book that doesn’t develop character but has a good concept idea, regardless as to whether it’s a success or not. Personally, I think it would have worked through the struggles of Death because he doesn’t live a normal life so we’d be engrossed not only in his love life but also his world and the conflict he has with those that are higher-up than him as he tries to save Pagan.

Pagan could have worked if her character arc was developed and considering she’s the protagonist, it’s a major flaw that she’s not. The only characters who have any arc are Death and his two transporters Gee and Ky. If Pagan actually struggled to find the answers rather than running away or hiding under her cover (as the depression only features for half a chapter) it’d have been different.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

Popsugar Challenge

I tried to do the 2017 challenge, but I failed, so I am going to try the 2018 one next year, which means you can expect a lot of book reviews.

There are supposed to be 52 prompts, 40 in the general challenge and 12 in the advanced, but two seem to have got forgotten so I took some from the previous challenges:

  1. A book based on mythology
  2. A book that takes place over a character’s lifespan

The prompt just before Advanced “Your favourite prompt from 2015, 2016 or 2017  Popsugar reading challenge” will be:

A book with bad reviews from the 2015 challenge. I have a friend’s blog I can basically stalk for this one.

Thanks for reading, I have a general idea as to what I am going to read for most of them but if anyone has ideas and have books you want me to review that will fall under any of these prompts, then please feel free to comment.

Subscribe to follow what happens with these 52 prompts and feel free to join Berg’s Book Club. 
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