‘Brody Fair has had enough of real life. Enough of the bullies on his block, of being second best to his genius brother, and of not fitting in at school or at home. Then one day he meets Nico. Colourful, confident and flamboyant, he promises to take Brody to Everland, a diverse magical place. A place where he can be himself, where there are no rules, time doesn’t pass, and the party never ends. The only catch? It’s a place so good, you could lose yourself and forget what’s real.’
Last Bus to Everland is a beautiful book that I read in a matter of hours because I just didn’t want to put it down. The story follows Brody, who is feeling increasingly out of place and overlooked, suffering from bullying at the hands of his schoolmates, who mock him primarily because of his perceived sexual orientation, while he believes his parents are much more invested in the life and future of his Oxbridge-material older brother. When he meets Nico, who appears to be everything that he wants to be, he learns of a magical place called Everland, which he can visit and be free of the constraints of the world for supposedly as long as he wishes, for time doesn’t pass in Everland in the same manner as in the real world.
Each of the characters in the story is struggling with the perception of others and the views of society, from Brody himself and those who visit Everland as an escape from the world they know, to his father, who suffers from agoraphobia and finds himself at the mercy of a system that all too frequently brands ‘invisible’ illnesses as not illnesses at all. Brody seeks somewhere that he can belong and be free of the expectations and pressures of the world around him; a world that is intent on making him feel that his particular differences are not ones that will be accepted, and Everland offers him the opportunity to belong and be who he wishes to be with what are, initially, few consequences – until Everland becomes so much more appealing than reality that it begins to take over his life. And the thing is, it isn’t as if the reader can entirely blame Brody for being so enthralled by Everland, for wouldn’t we all love a place where we can unashamedly be ourselves and do as we please without the judgement of others?
One of the core components of the narrative is our perception of those around us and what we might miss or simply don’t know about those we spend our day to day lives with. I don’t want to get into specific spoilers, but there are several instances in the story where characters are so wrapped up in their own hurts that they don’t notice those of the people around them – and this is not to make their hurting any less significant, but a reminder that we should take the time to support each other and take into account what we may never see of the lives of the people we spend time with every day. Ultimately, what one person might believe to be a small and insignificant matter may be unbearable for the person it impacts. Words that seem harmless or ‘banter’ (I have grown to hate that word, for it should never be used to explain away hurtful jokes at someone’s expense) may be far more hurtful than ever thought.
Last Bus to Everland is a thought-provoking and wonderfully diverse read with a fantastic range of representation. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and would like to thank My Kinda Book and Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy for review!