The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride YA Novel Review


Title: The Tension of Opposites

Author: Kristina McBride

Publisher: Egmont USA

ISBN: 9781606840856


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When Tessa’s best friend Noelle disappears right before the start of eighth grade, Tessa’s life changes completely–she shies away from her other friends and stops eating in the cafeteria. Now, two years later, Noelle has escaped her captivity and is coming home, in one piece but not exactly intact, and definitely different. Tessa’s life is about to change again as she tries to revive the best-friendship the two girls had shared before Noelle–now Elle–was kidnapped; puts up a futile resistance to the charming new guy at school; pursues her passion for photography while trying to build the bravado to show her photos to the public; and tries to balance her desire to protect and shelter Elle with the necessity to live her own life and put herself first.

I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  This is one that I approached with a great deal of caution, because I wasn’t certain how I felt about the subject matter.  It could have very easily come across as exploitative or sensationalist, but by telling the story through the eyes of Noelle’s best friend, Kristina McBride produced a touching and thoughtful story about friendship and learning to move forward in life. 

Tessa was twelve when her best friend Noelle disappeared.  Only her bike was left behind, and it was as though Noelle had vanished into thin air.  Ever since that day, Tessa has been stuck in reverse, unable to do anything other than keep looking backwards.  There is no forward for her, only the constant glancing back into her past.  Everything came to a screeching halt that day, and only her camera keeps her company now.  Tessa is assailed by guilt and loneliness, and she can’t believe that Noelle is gone forever.

Two years later, Tessa gets a call from Noelle’s brother.  Noelle is alive, and she’s coming home.  Now Tessa has so many other feelings to deal with; elation that her friend is still alive, bewilderment that it took her so long to contact her family.  When they are reunited, things don’t go as Tessa has envisioned all this time.  Noelle is like a different person, and she is on a path of self-destruction. Tessa feels that it’s her responsibility to save Noelle from herself.  What she hasn’t counted on is that Noelle doesn’t want to be saved.

I liked Tessa.  A lot.  While her single-minded devotion to Noelle was occasionally irritating, she is a character I could empathize with.  She’s got a lot of issues to deal with herself, including guilt and and an inability to open up to others.  Losing Noelle was like losing a chunk of herself, and she doesn’t want that to happen again.  Plus, how do you just carry on with your life when such a large part of it 3is suddenly missing?  These overwhelming feelings torment Tessa, and keep her from forming close relationships with other people. 

When Tessa meets Max, her life changes again.  Here is a guy who is determined to draw her out of her shell and get to know her better.  Tessa resists, and their courtship stutters along.  How can Max ever hope to compete with Noelle for Tessa’s affections?  Max has got to be the most understanding guy in YA fiction, because he puts up with a lot of rejection from Tessa. 

Tessa’s struggle to find herself felt very real.  Even when Noelle was gone, her world revolved around her friend.  Noelle was always at the back of her mind, holding her back and keeping her confined within a shell of herself.  When Noelle returns, Tessa is forced to re-evaluate who she is and how much Noelle means to her.  Noelle is having a hard time adjusting to her new normal, too, and the clash between them kept me glued to the book.  There are so many emotions for them to work through, emotions that neither one of them wants to acknowledge.  

The Tension of Opposites delivers an emotion packed read about what it means to be a friend, and about finding the courage to live for yourself.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher