Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Between, by Jessica Warman (2011, Walker Children's Books)

Recommended for ages 15-18

Elizabeth Valchar wakes up the morning after her 18th birthday party to discover a body floating in the water. The rest of her party is fast asleep on her father’s yacht – a small group of friends, her stepsister, Josie, and boyfriend, Richie. Elizabeth doesn't quite understand what’s going on, but it becomes all too clear soon enough: the body is Elizabeth’s. She is dead but able to see her family and friends – she’s between two worlds, the world of the living and the dead.
Elizabeth meets another Betweener, a schoolmate named Alex who was killed in a hit and run. Together, they shift between past memories and the present, where Elizabeth learns that she and her popular group of friends weren't the “nice kids” she believed they were: they were entitled, means, and bullied their other classmates, including Alex. Reviewing her life gives her perspective she never had and allows insight into things she never knew about: things like her mother’s death from anorexia, her stepmother’s campaign to take her mother’s place, and Josie’s attempts to do the same thing to Elizabeth. As the two teens shift between past and present, muddled events become clearer and Elizabeth realizes that the awful secret she has been running from is the same secret that ties her and Alex together. She must solve the mystery surrounding her own death and unravel why Alex is so angry with her before she can move on.
Between is a compulsively readable book with cross-genre appeal. It is a murder mystery and a paranormal with elements of realistic fiction as Ms. Warman illustrates the conflict between the popular rich students and the working-class and poor students. The reader witnesses bullying, drug use, and alcoholism from the so-called “good” kids, the rich kids who have everything, and sees how empty their lives are underneath the surface. Even Elizabeth, her family’s golden girl, was heading down a path similar to her mother’s, cultivating an eating disorder and allowing herself to be manipulated by her popular friends. Jessica Warman has a lot to say in Between.
Jessica Warman’s author website links to her blog, provides information about her novels, and includes an FAQ.

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