Review: For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix

Seth finds himself alone at an abandoned train station, with no idea what happened, or how he got there. He boards a train, only to discover it’s a special express transporting the recently deceased to their final destination. The conductor tells him he’s having a near-death experience. Seth wonders if it has something to do with his violent boyfriend, but that doesn't matter. All that matters is getting the hell off the train before he actually dies. But when he spots his best friend and secret crush among the traveling dead, the urge to leave fades...

This story broke me and put me back together in the best of ways, it’s the definition of bittersweet and no HEA has ever been more H in the EA. I’m not much of a crier with books and movies. I generally will only get blubbery with animal stories and ridiculous random shit in a Hallmark commercial. When I do though, I start and have trouble stopping and it’s u-g-l-y. That’s probably why I lock down my cold black heart, no one needs to see the aftermath of my ugly crys. My last couple of crying books, The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, were both dog books, they still hurt my heart and I’m still mad at the authors for making me ugly cry. This book was different though, I blubbered, but it wasn’t nearly as vile as my past experiences have been. Even though the book had a foreboding and moody feel throughout, it never felt hopeless. And isn’t hope everything?

Seth and Carter were best friends since childhood but grew apart as they grew older. Carter identified as hetero, had a girlfriend that he loved and a big secret that he kept from Seth. Seth moved in with a boyfriend who controlled him, abused him and cut him off from everyone he loved. Needless to say, there were unresolved feelings all around and if it weren’t for fate, kismet, the stars aligning, the flow of heavenly love or pure coincidence, the two end up on a train headed for their ultimate destinies. This. Was. Awesome. The author did an amazing job of building the story around the journey on the train and all the meaning of the train cars and stops was brilliant. She tied the evolution of their memories to everything around the train seamlessly, I loved it.

Both Seth and Carter were such amazing characters. They were flawed and honest and this story needed that because anything else wouldn’t have felt like a fit to the story and would have cheapened the setting and the aura the author created. There had to be a bit of pain with all the realizations these two were going through. They weren’t just confessing to one another the bits of their lives the other had missed, but they were also figuring out their own eternities and how to resolve and accept them. It sounds really heavy and it was. But, it didn’t read overwhelmingly depressing and it really could have without all the aspects the author included. The author balanced the realizations with the reconnection of Seth and Carter perfectly so while they were owning some tough truths, they also had the appreciation of each other again. And that’s where the hope was present throughout.

The ending was wonderful and awful and perfect and hurt all at the same time. It had to end the way it did and good on the author for not caving and make it too easy or too perfect. It followed the logic of the world the author built, respecting the rules that had to be followed. The ending also allowed the characters’ to own their inner strength along with all the regrets and confusion they had when they boarded the train. It was a cleansing journey, which yeah, I know sounds corny, but it really was.
The secondary characters added a lot to the story as well and reading about Seth and Carter helping them also gave them perspective on themselves.

This really unique and bittersweet read hit me hard in the feels and I can’t recommend it enough. It was refreshing to read something out of the ordinary that still gave me all the warm fuzzies that I love from this genre. Seth and Carter are going to be with me forever and always and I know I’ll be comfort reading this story again.

For more information on Never and Always, head over to Goodreads.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**


  1. well, I'm totally ready this now becasue who doesn't need an ugly cry once in awhile?

    1. Right?!?!?! It's cathartic, I highly recommend it now and again and this book was the perfect way to do it! I promise you'll happy weep at the end.