Title: The Space Between Us
Author: Jessica Martinez
May Contain Spoilers
Oh. My. GOD! That is the only way I know how to express myself after reading The Space Between Us. The book was not what I was expecting. At all. From the first page, I couldn’t put it down. I kept hoping the puppies would go to sleep so I could read without all of their little distractions (like trying to chew on my rugs, dragging boots around the house, and wrestling over the millions of toys they have to play with!). This is an emotional read, and the drama is built up entirely around Amelia’s feelings for her youngest sister Charly. There were plenty of times when I didn’t like Amelia, but I always understood her. She is enraged that Charly has completely derailed her carefully planned out life, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive her. But even as she can’t forgive her, she wishes that life would go back to normal, that she and Charly could once again share that easy relationship that they once had. Her resentment keeps getting in the way, though, and just keeps pushing them further apart.
Amelia has one goal in life – to go to Columbia. Her entire school life so far has been dedicated to this goal. She has exceled in her classes, studied her heart out, and always been the good girl. Charly, on the other hand, is her exact opposite. Fun loving, bubbly, outgoing, Charly thinks that life’s a game to be played all out. Everyone loves her, and though she gets into a ton of trouble, her antics have been harmless. Amelia is resigned that she will be bailing her out of one scrape after another, but with Charly’s unpredictable streak, at least life is never boring. Until she starts hanging out with a bunch of losers, and she winds up pregnant.
Now, not being overly religious and not living in a small town, I didn’t sympathize with Amelia and her grandmother’s reaction to Charly’s condition. Not even having a pastor father, who is a distracted and distant caregiver at best, could excuse their behavior and how they treated Charly like a tramp. She’s pregnant, not a criminal! She’s scared, suddenly alienated from her own family, and has no one to confide in. The girls’ stern grandmother has decided that they will keep Charly’s pregnancy a secret from everyone, including their father. They will both be shipped of to their aunt’s house in Canada, where Charly will take online courses for the rest of the year, and Amelia will be enrolled in the local high school. Really?! Sending them off to a relative they don’t know and have only met once, at their mother’s funeral when they were babies, is the answer to Charly’s problem? I hated their grandmother, I hated their clueless father, and I even hated Amelia for part of the book. Everyone in her immediate family turned their back on her when Charly needed them the most, and I had a hard time forgiving them.
Amelia is infuriated that she is being shipped off to the frozen north. She wants nothing more than to finish out her senior year at her Florida high school, and then she’ll be free! It’s off to Columbia for her! Freedom from Charly and her shenanigans, freedom from gossip, freedom from always having to be the good girl. Argh! Amelia does not make a good impression on anyone once she gets to her aunt’s house, and she sees nothing wrong with her rotten behavior. She takes her rage out on everyone. I could understand how devastated she felt after her dreams shattered one by one, but come on! You are supposed to be the mature one! There were times that I was so frustrated with her that I did not like her. But even then, I could still sympathize with her. It is so hard to have your entire life shaken up like snow globe, so while I didn’t condone her actions, at least I understood them.
There is a lot of emotion packed into this book. While it’s told from Amelia’s POV, Charly’s terror and unhappiness are painfully evident. She’s a sixteen year old kid who, after one careless decision, ends up ostracized by her family. The only caring adult in her life is the aunt she doesn’t even know. Bree immediately tries to make both girls feel at home, but Amelia is so resentful and suspicious of her motives that she can only give her a hard time. Ugh! I kept waiting for her to attain some measure of maturity, and it was a long time in coming. Almost too late, really. Amelia made me so angry! I haven’t been this worked up reading a book in a long time!
When forgiveness does finally come, there is still an awkward strain between the sisters. Amelia has fallen into a pattern of thinking that constantly blames her sister for everything, and dismisses her unfairly. I think my only disappointment with the story is that I felt that some of the issues that had pushed them so far apart weren’t settled enough for my satisfaction. That space that developed between Amelia and Charly, and even between Amelia and her father and grandmother, had grown so great that I am not convinced it could ever be bridged.
Review copy obtained from my local library