Evie Johnson is a new student at Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, which resides in (you’ll never guess) a gothic mansion on the moors. Surprisingly, there are some severe headmistresses there (coiffed with scraped-back buns) and a clique of mean rich girls. They tease Evie for arriving on the train and make discourteous comments when the school mistress announces that Evie is their new “scholarship student.”
You won’t believe it, but Evie has red hair and a seemingly innocuous silver pendant which belonged to her mother (who was drowned), grandmother, and other maternal ancestors who have some connection to the area around Wyldcliffe Abbey. Needless to say, I was astonished when Evie started experiencing strange sensations and hallucinations when she arrived at school. These visions are connected to the tragic deaths of two young ladies, one of whom grew up in the Victorian age and wisely kept a diary detailing her experimentation with witchcraft.
In an unpredictable twist, there’s also a mysterious and exotically beautiful boy with no personality who sneaks around on the grounds at night and has fallen hopelessly in love with Evie for no apparent reason. With the help of Sarah, the only nice girl at Wyldcliffe Abbey, and Helen, the strange loner, Evie tries to figure out what’s going on.
Immortal, by Gillian Shields, is a disappointing Wuthering Heights wannabe whose plot so closely mimics Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, that it begs comparison. And so I will compare it. I didn’t particularly enjoy Bray’s book because of the unlikable girls, but I did find some pleasure and wit between its covers and the audio narration was truly beautiful.
Immortal, however, has nothing going for it. Evie is an ineffective heroine. We’re supposed to root for her because she’s the protagonist of the story, but she’s not particularly engaging or interesting. The only reason to root for Evie is that Celeste (the “ice princess” who’s the classic mean girl caricature) is against her. Likewise, the beautiful boy who falls in love with Evie has nothing to offer. He’s supposed to be tragic and romantic, but I found him annoying and wondered when Evie would ask herself what was wrong with this ridiculous romance. The only tolerable person in Immortal is Sarah, the nice girl. Unfortunately, though the audio version performed by Emily Durante was otherwise well acted, the voice used for Sarah was so highly pitched (sometimes becoming sharp and shrill) that it made even Sarah intolerable.
So, there’s no reason to like any of Shields’ characters, and there’s no charm, wit, beauty, or style to make up for it. Immortal isn’t likely to entertain most adults and most well-read teenagers will also find it derivative, emotionally vapid, and generally unsatisfying. Other than disappointment, while reading Immortal I never felt anything but déjà vu.
Immortal — (2009-2012) Young adult. Publisher: Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, housed in a Gothic mansion on the bleak northern moors, is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn away from her home by the sea to become the newest scholarship student, she is more isolated than she could have dreamed. Strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave Evie drowning in loneliness. Evie’s only lifeline is Sebastian, a rebellious, mocking, dangerously attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie’s feelings for Sebastian grow with each secret meeting, she starts to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl — a girl who is so eerily like Evie, she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she cannot control. And as the extraordinary, elemental forces of Wyldcliffe riseup like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate. Gillian Shields’s electrifying tale will dazzle readers with suspense, mysticism, and romance.