Like many of the books I read for my book club, I had not heard of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (2014) by Claire North, and I probably would not have chosen it on my own. It didn’t help that the Amazon page said this book was for eight to twelve year-old kids. Fortunately, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August turned out to be a thought-provoking and entertaining book.
Harry August is a special kind of person, which he discovers in his second life. He finds that when he dies, his life starts over, exactly as it had before. He is born to the same parents, in the same place, only he remembers everything about what happened before. Slowly, Harry August meets the few others of his kind spread around the world. When one of them threatens to drastically change human history for his own purposes, Harry must decide how to deal with this threat.
I was impressed by the creativity and thoughtfulness of North’s story. The beginning kept me interested as I learned more about Harry August’s life, how he comes to term with what he is, and what that would mean for me. When you have multiple lives, you have so many more opportunities to travel, learn, and experience things. In some ways, it is very appealing. At the same time, your idea of risk and death change dramatically. You can make mistakes and try almost anything without fear. The worst thing that will likely happen is you have to go through childhood and puberty again. However, when you live life after life without consequences and can’t get away from your life, I imagine that it would be hard to be excited about anything.
I did find that there was a lull in the middle of the story as North changed focus from Harry’s life in general to a new threat that was being whispered down from the future. Someone is using their knowledge of the future to push technological progress faster and earlier than ever before, which is leading to the end of the world earlier and earlier with each new life. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for the story to pick up again. Harry finds the man responsible, and the two are locked in an odd battle that goes beyond death.
Although there were points in this book where I felt it slowed down a little or didn’t quite work, I thought it was well-written, thoughtful, original, and often exciting. Just the idea of being able to relive your life as Harry did was interesting enough for a book. Layer on top of that the thrilling and mysterious aspects of chasing down, through multiple lives, the man who will end the world, and there’s a lot going for it. I’m glad I read it.
Find all of my reviews on my blog.