Review: Between by Jessica Warman

 

Title: Between

Author: Jessica Warman

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 978-0802721822

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Elizabeth Valchar-pretty, popular, and perfect-wakes up the morning after her eighteenth birthday party on her family’s yacht, where she’d been celebrating with her six closest friends. A persistent thumping noise has roused her. When she goes to investigate, what she finds will change everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and everything in between. As Liz begins to unravel the circumstances surrounding her birthday night, she will find that no one around her, least of all Liz herself, was perfect-or innocent. Critically acclaimed author Jessica Warman brings readers along on a roller-coaster ride of a mystery, one that is also a heartbreaking character study, a touching romance, and ultimately a hopeful tale of redemption, love, and letting go.

Review:

I am a bit confused about my feelings for this book.  There were many elements that I loved and that is what kept me reading.  There were also bits and pieces that I wasn’t so fond of, that detracted from my enjoyment of Between.  I love the concept, too, but felt that the execution was just a little weak in spots.

My biggest dissatisfaction stems from the pacing.  This is a leisurely look at the life and death of one very spoiled young woman.  Starting with Liz’s death, the book jumps between the present and flashbacks to the past to unravel the mystery of her death.  How did she end up in a cold, watery grave on her birthday? Why didn’t anyone hear her fall off of her parents’ boat, or her struggles to save herself from drowning?  Liz has very few memories left, so with the help of another ghost, she begins to fill in the pieces of her life that she has forgotten.  As she slowly adds one fragment of her past after another, she starts to see that she wasn’t a very nice person, and that despite all appearances to the contrary, she wasn’t a very happy one, either.

This is a character driven book, which brings me to the other reason why I didn’t totally love this read.  I wasn’t head over heels with any of the characters, except maybe Alex.  Alex has been dead for a year, killed by a hit and run driver.  He has been stuck somewhere between life and death, restlessly seeking a way to move beyond where he’s stuck now.  He was never a popular kid at school, and unlike Liz, he had to work for everything that he had.  His parents weren’t wealthy, and he had to work at the local market, riding his bike back and forth to his job.  It’s obvious from the start that he can’t stand Liz, he can’t stand her friends, and he isn’t happy that he’s with her in death.  She is about the last person he would want to spend time with, and now it looks like he’s going to be spending eternity with her.   Life, and death, just aren’t fair!

Since Liz can’t remember much about herself, she has a hard time believing that she was as big a witch as Alex claims.  Through flashbacks, she begins to see what a mess she was.  Having witnessed her mother’s untimely death, Liz has had many issues to deal with, and they have left her with a skewed outlook on life.  Her father denies her nothing, and her step-mother and step-sister are also accustomed to getting every material thing that they want.  This leaves Liz a shallow, materialistic girl, and I never connected with her.  Even in her death, she’s hard to like.  She’s catty and judgmental, and she’s always critical of the people around her and how they look or what they have.  It’s like she still can’t see beyond outward appearances, even when she is seeking redemption for herself.  This frustrated me about her.  She is petty and shallow, from the beginning of the book to the end.   This is a passage near the end of the novel:

Nicole saunters out the back door of our house. She’s wearing a flowing white skirt that grazes her ankles, a yellow halter top that exposes her belly – which is just a tad pudgy – and a light jacket.

If I had ever met her in real life, we would have hated each other.

Having said that, Liz does possess one character trait that I admired, and kept me from totally disliking her.  She is so intensely loyal and in love with Richie, her boyfriend.  Though he is a flawed character as well, their relationship was convincing.  They have known each other since they were both babies, and they have developed an intense and unwavering love between them.  They have always been together, and they believe, firmly and unflinchingly, that they will always be together.

While Between didn’t always work for me, I never wanted to put it down and stop reading it.  I did want Liz and Alex to find some kind of meaning in their deaths, and I wanted Liz to find the happiness in death that she never found in her troubled life.  I just wish I had liked her better during her journey to find inner peace.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher