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SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Everlost by Neal Shusterman.
Neal Shusterman’s fantasy novel Everlost (2006) follows two teenagers who, after a car crash, are caught in a land between life and death known as Everlost. The work is the first in the Skinjacker trilogy, which includes Everwild (2009) and Everfound (2011). Shusterman, a popular screenwriter, is best known for his 2015 YA novel, Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
Prominent themes in Everlost include deception, friendship, and mortality.
Part one opens with a slow-motion overview of the car crash that kills fourteen-year-old protagonists Nick and Allie. Allie, brave and ambitious, was in a car with her family on the highway when they crashed head-on into a Mercedes that was heading to a wedding. Nick, a kind and quiet boy, was in the wedding vehicle. He was eating chocolate and had a stain on his mouth at the time of the accident. Consequently, he is forced to be in formal clothes and have a chocolate stain on his mouth throughout the afterlife.
Nick and Allie wake up in a forest. They run into Lief (aka Travis), an eleven-year-old boy. Lief explains to them about “Afterlights,” which is what they currently are: ghost-like beings who cannot die and cannot remain in the world of the living. Allie and Nick plan to return home to New York City. Before they go, Lief warns them to look out for a monster named The McGill.
In New York, they run into Mary Hightower, an expert on living in Everlost. A prolific writer on Everlost, she lives with her “children” (the incoming Afterlights) in the ruins of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. Allie and Nick are surprised to see the World Trade Center in Everlost, but Hightower tells them that things that were immensely loved in the real world tend to transfer to Everlost when they are met with destruction. At fifteen, Hightower is the oldest person in Everlost; Allie and Nick learn that adults almost never appear in Everlost because they are old enough to have a concrete view of the world and know where they are heading in the afterlife. Allie learns that she is a “Skinjacker”—she can take possession of any human body, or “jack” a human’s body.
One day, The McGill captures Allie. She sees that The McGill is a terrible monster, in action and appearance. He captains a ship on which hundreds of Afterlights are his prisoners; he has been accumulating prisoners for the last thirty years. His latest prisoners include Nick and Lief. The McGill’s cruelty is motivated in part by his belief that if he captures a thousand souls, he can return to the real world. This is based off a fortune cookie he once received; in the real world, this would not mean much, but in Everlost, fortune cookies always give accurate prophecies.
Using her charm and intellect, Allie talks with The McGill to gain his trust. She claims that she can teach him how to skinjack, though Hightower had told her it was an innate ability revealed upon crossing over into Everlost.
One day, Allie discovers that Hightower’s younger brother, Mikey (Michael) McGill, is the sinister being they all know as The McGill. Hightower, whose real name is Megan McGill, died around the same time as her brother, Mikey. As Afterlights, they returned home. But Mikey stood in the same place for too long bemoaning his lost life; in Everlost, when anyone stands in one place for too long, they start sinking into the earth’s core. Mikey is consumed by the earth. Megan assumed he died from the incident. But Mikey, powered by his anger, was able to burst through the earth’s crust. His struggle had turned him to a physical monster, and his anger at the world only increased.
They soon realize that Mary/Megan Hightower/McGill is not to be trusted at all. In fact, some people call her the Sky Witch. This entire time, Hightower has kept from the children the secret key to getting out of Everlost. All Afterlights wake up with a coin that allows them to move onto the next stage of the afterlife. But Hightower, believing that the light through which people enter the next world is actually malicious, steals the coins from all newcomers before they have the chance to use it.
Nick and Allie wage a sort of PR campaign against Hightower. They aim to convince as many children as possible to force Hightower to return their rightful coins to the next world. Hightower, meanwhile, creates propaganda, calling Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” because of the unfortunate stain on his face. She claims that he lures children into a worse fate by tantalizing them with the smell of chocolate.
Hightower eventually confronts The McGill. She returns him to human form after showing him a picture of himself. Remembering his past life, he is instantly returned to the young body he once possessed.
Allie journeys home, and nearly dies on a bridge but is saved by Mikey who has shed his angry past as The McGill.