Author: Susanne Winnacker
Rating: 3.5 stars
When I saw this, what immediately caught my eye was the protag’s obsession with numbers. Having read Shatter Me, I couldn’t help but be apprehensive about how far the similarities might go between the two. Fortunately, that was as far as it went. The Other Life proved to be a quick read that, while not the most amazing of dystopias, certainly kept me reading.
Sherry has spent just over three years living in an underground bunker with her family. When a virus started turning people into ravenous zombie-esque creatures, everyone was told to get into a bunker and stay there until the military declared it safe to resurface. Now, however, Sherry’s family are out of food and it is up to her and her dad to leave the safety of their bunker and search for some. They very quickly run into trouble, with Sherry’s dad taken by the Weepers. Distraught, she sets out to find him with the help of the mysterious Joshua.
The Other Life is a pretty easy read. The plotline was for the most part basic and the pacing neither fast nor slow. To be honest, I was expecting a bit more action, a bit more intensity. Having said that, there was definitely enough to keep me engaged. Susanne Winnacker has a writing style that’s easy to follow and her use of contrast between flashback and present day was something I found worked really well. The flashbacks highlighted moment that would have been insignificant once upon a time but in light of circumstances now became a dream, remnants of a time too late appreciated. The fact that they were kept short and sweet emphasised this contrast and gave the memories almost an elusive feel.
Sherry’s voice was a curious one. To me she sounded older than her fifteen years and even now I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing because it reflects her circumstances, or a bad thing. Perhaps what would have worked for me is if that older voice had developed with her experience with the Weepers. Or maybe I’m just being too picky. There was definitely development in her character so that by the end, she was one tough girl. She lost any naivety that had been present at the beginning and was just generally really brave for her family. It wasn’t difficult to sympathise with her. I was very impressed with the opening, where Winnacker sets the scene in the bunker; the tension was palpable and I felt frustrated at how it was up to Sherry to be the mature one. I have to say, Grandma’s knitting made me feel crazy too. I dearly would have loved to snatch those needles from her; I probably would have if I’d been there. Something I wasn’t too sure about, however, was the likelihood of them all staying in there for three years without venturing once outside, especially with the lack of communication they’d suddenly been experiencing. It didn’t seem particularly realistic to me.
Joshua, on the other hand, was. He was tough and brave, and also vulnerable. I liked seeing those flashes where his inner turmoil was exposed and he became someone more scarred by his experiences than he let on. He was especially guarded when it came to Sherry but at the same time it was obvious he cared. I would have liked there to be a bit more focus on him at the beginning. Sherry hasn’t seen anyone outside of her family for three years and when she does, she doesn’t take a moment to really focus on him? Actually, I think that was an issue generally. Winnacker could have made this more detailed, and not just with Sherry – here dad didn’t seem fazed by stepping outside for the first time in three years either. Somehow, though, the author managed to just about pull it off and it wasn’t a hugely major issue.
The ending I thought was nicely done. There was no cliffhanger but a very good opening for the sequel. With enough action to keep me entertained and a big enough plot development to keep me intrigued I was more than satisfied with it. I was also glad to hear more from Tyler. He’d caught my interest from the beginning and I was amazed to hear his story. I look forward to see more from him or about him later on.
Overall, The Other Life is an engaging read with a diverse range of characters – from Tyler, the guy who’s taken the name of his dead twin, to Geoffrey, who freely and randomly admits to his contribution with the virus and its consequences, to Grandpa in the freezer. No way was I going to write this review without giving him a mention. Since he’s dead the whole way through, I guess strictly speaking he’s not an actual character, but that’s really a minor detail. I found the idea of moving him totally hilarious. For all its flaws, this book definitely deserves its fair share of reads, and I look forward to the sequel.