Review: Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

*I received this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review*
*This review is based upon the newest release and not the one made available prior to September 2015*

Don’t-Ever-Call-Her-Larissa Kenders is a punk-rocker hellbent on saving the world through her angry sounding music and surly attitude (with a little civil disobedience thrown in for fun). When the earth is depleted of its bee population, Kenders and the rest of the Earth’s populace are left with a desolate world devoid of animals, plants, and anything that isn’t some dingy shade of brown.

Given the sad state of reality, concessions must be made in an attempt to keep up the morale of the people. Kenders’ fiance, Andrew is the lead coder in the creation of a continuously evolving virtual reality called “Nirvana”.  When Andrew disappears and Kenders is forced to identify his burned-beyond-recognition body, the last thing on the planet that Kenders can count on and love is now gone.  In an effort to escape her grief, Kenders finds herself spending more time in Nirvana.  In Nirvana, Kenders can spend more time with Andrew.  Even if he is a cheek-bite virtual version of the man she loves, she is able to find some solace and a small bit of peace in the time she gets to spend with him.  But when “virtual” Andrew breaks script and asks for her help, Kenders is filled with hope and can’t help buy comply with his plan to take down Hexagon, the organization that runs every aspect of their lives; good, bad, ugly, and even virtual.

4 Stars

I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a couple of months and hadn’t gotten the chance to read it until yesterday.  From everything I’ve seen, I’m so glad I waited!  Last week, I received an e-mail from the publisher essentially stating that based on dismal early-reviews, there was a major re-hash of this novel.

The Bad:

When I first started reading Nirvana, I really didn’t know if this version was going to be any better than what I’d read about the first, and I got lost quickly.  To be honest, the prologue was kind of all over the place and a bit confusing.  However, that was quickly rectified on page one, chapter one.  It didn’t take long after the prologue for me to fall completely in love.

The Good:

I had forgotten how much I enjoy dystopian novels until I cracked this baby open.  This is bound to get wrapped up in the YA dystopian hub-bub and compared to this or that, so I’m going to go ahead and get out with it. I’ve read Divergent and The Hunger Games (no, I’m not saying they’re the only ones…Just go with it), and while Nirvana is certainly a variation on a familiar theme, it’s definitely got twists and turns that make it vastly different.  While all are dystopian, The Hunger Games and Divergent both separate their “new worlds” into sub-cultures.  Nirvana doesn’t do that as much, which I appreciated.  It definitely has some cultural delineation going on, but, like in our world, it’s largely class-based; namely, the haves and the have-nots.  If anything, I’d compare it more to Hugh Howey’s Wool (if you haven’t read this, you should).  This novel, while classified as “YA” because of the age of the two main characters (late teens), would honestly appeal to an audience of any age.  I found the age of Kenders and Andrew to be of little consequence to the overall plot.largeAs short as this novel was, I was both taken-aback and impressed by how action-packed it was.  At less than 200 pages, it should be difficult to fit as many twists and loops into a story and have it make any kind of sense.  In Nirvana, it was not only done extraordinarily well, but it was completely believable and easy to follow.  That’s saying a lot for me, as someone who abhors science and more often than not can’t wrap my head around real-life jargon, much less futuristic nuances. And, even with all the sciency stuff, there was a lot in Nirvana that appealed to a bleeding-heart YA fiction fan such as myself.

The relationship between Kenders, Andrew, and the other characters in Nirvana were extremely well thought-out.  There was a fabulous backstory to each character, protagonist or otherwise, and J.R. Stewart took great care to ensure that the reader understood the nuances of all of them.  That in itself made this novel completely gripping in every conceivable way.  I often found myself rooting for one thing, and then getting mad because “NO! THAT SCREWS OVER SO-AND-SO!”  I was so caught up in Nirvana and its characters, that I raced through it in a matter of hours.  And, not to give anything away, but the end was both heart-warming and gut-wrenching all at the same time; to the point where I’m really glad I have a protection plan on my Kindle, because I threw it.  Hard.  Against a wall.  Can you tell I have a love/hate relationship with cliff-hangers?

Note to the Author

What. The. Hell?!  How can anybody with half a soul end a novel like that?!  I mean, everybody loves a cliff-hanger, but that’s just freakin’ mean!  I sincerely hope you write faster than….pretty much anyone else, because I HAVE TO KNOW what’s next!

Come On


3 thoughts on “Review: Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

  1. betwixt-these-pages says:

    I read both the first version AND the rehashed version, and the rehashed version IS SO MUCH BETTER! But I agree with your last thought–that ending is terribly disappointing! I was like… *jaw drops* NOT THIS AGAIN!!!! XD Great review!


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