You may have seen that earlier this week I shared a blog post as part of the Last Bus to Everland blog tour in which author Sophie Cameron shared her favourite siblings in YA. As promised, today I’m here with my spoiler free review of this wonderful book! It isn’t part of the blog tour but I just had to share my thoughts on this story as it definitely made an impact. Thank you to Lois whose recommendation prompted me to read this story and to my friend Luchia for the copy! Keep reading to see my thoughts on Last Bus to Everland.
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.
Set in Edinburgh we are told the story in first person through Brody’s eyes. I do enjoy stories told through first person, and while sometimes this approach can be limiting I didn’t feel that effect with this. One of my favourite aspects of this book had to be the characters. Whilst there was definitely a moving plot, I also felt that it was heavily character driven too which always gives me a strong sense of attachment to a story.
It’s important to note the diversity that this book has, with main characters of many different sexuality, abilities and nationalities. Our main character is Scottish and gay whose father has PTSD after serving in the army and has agoraphobia as a result, the love interest is Spanish-English and gay and we have a Polish lesbian, Japanese, Latinx bisexual and a pansexual side character in a wheelchair. I also want to note that none of this diversity felt forced or as if it had been included to “tick a box”, as it never should, which is just awesome.
I just have to point out that Brody has a cat which loves cheddar cheese (is the cat me?) but throughout the story he begins to gain a taste for posher cheese like Manchego which I just thought was hilarious!
There was also a strong theme of family in Last Bus to Everland; it’s very rare to read about a three child family in YA and I really enjoyed discovering their dynamic. Each child is totally different, with Brody’s brother being a gifted student on his way to a prestigious university, his sister being a budding theatre actress and Brody feeling like he’s struggling to fit in, but the love in the family is clear to the reader while it might not be to them. I want to note that there are discussions surrounding poverty and low income that again, I have rarely read about within YA, but I think it was dealt with delicately by the author and didn’t feel like solely a plot device.
Brody is invited to Everland after meeting Nico, who is wearing blue fairy wings for their first interaction, while chasing his cat who has been stolen by two classmates who bully him. Firstly, the cat liked Nico right away which is how I knew he was a good egg. Secondly, he stuck up for Brody without even knowing him which cemented his egg status.
Whilst there was a slightly frosty reception at first from a couple of Nico’s friends as Brody visits Everland with them for the first time, the group become like a small family in no time at all. I really enjoyed the references to pop culture which made the story that bit more relatable, as if it were my friends and I discussing Harry Potter and not characters in a story.
The world building in this story really helped to paint a vivid picture of Everland in my mind – particularly a library with rooms made out of books! I would loved to have known more about this magical place but I guess that the mystery is part of it’s charm.
There were discussions surrounding mental health throughout Last Bus to Everland, with Brody’s dad’s agoraphobia, Brody’s brother’s anxiety and whilst it’s not explicitly stated there is the suggestion of anorexia also. Brody has an initial feeling of anger towards his father for the way he acts but then the understanding dawns – personally I think this is a very understandable way for a young teenager to feel and it was handled very well by Sophie.
In the beginning Brody feels as though he needs Everland in order to be himself, but through the story we see his journey to acceptance and realisation that he already has everything that Everland gives him inside himself. Another theme I felt was super important was realising that the image or judgement you have of someone is rarely a true depiction of the truth.
I wanted to share a couple of my favourite quotes too because they really just hit me:
“So I don’t tell him he’s imagining things or that there’s nothing to worry about. You wouldn’t say that to someone with a broken arm or a broken leg – the feelings just as real” – Brody discussing his father’s mental health
“You cannae measure everything in your life by somebody else’s”
An LGBTQ+ book featuring healthy discussions around mental health, first love and self love, Last Bus to Everland is about escapism, hope and acceptance. I closed the cover with an overwhelming feeling of happiness that I wish I could just bottle up and keep with me! This magical book definitely swept me away with it’s lush descriptions and dreamlike story line. While it’s not often I pick up a YA contemporary novel I’m so glad I did with Last Bus to Everland and would highly recommend. 4/5 stars.
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