Between by Jessica Warman is a wonderful read about a girl trapped between life and death. It’s one of those books that sucks you in and keeps you reading, usually long after you should have turned out the light and gone to bed.
Elizabeth Valchar is about to turn 18 and celebrates her birthday with her closest friends on board her father’s yacht. Waking the next day Liz is annoyed by a persistent noise coming from outside the boat. No one else is awake or seems to hear it, and Liz goes out to investigate, making the shocking discovery that the noise is a body and, more horrifyingly, it is her dead body.
Liz is initially comforted by the presence of a young man who can see her, but when it becomes clear that he is also dead and someone she had had no time for in life, the comfort turns to irritation. There are also other emotions to deal with: Coming to terms with the loss of her life and the sadness that comes with that, and of those that she’s left behind; confusion as to where she is now and what’s happening; and anger at being trapped with someone who so obviously despises her. And there’s the problem of her memories, which she can fall into at any moment, watching her life play out before her, but she can’t remember the most basic things about herself, including her last moments of life.
Liz and her friends were extremely popular at school, they received some special treatment from teachers and used to make life difficult for those they deemed to be beneath them. Alex, the boy Liz is stuck with, tells Liz some home truths about her and her friends, and she gets to relive these vicious moments and see the worst of herself. But Liz isn’t just a one-dimension character. This is not a typical mean girl out for redemption tale. Liz had problems, severe ones. Her mother died when she was nine, from complications due to an eating disorder. Liz flashes back to life with her mother and sees how unhealthy the obsession with food was, and how much of it she had carried with her into her teens. Her father remarried quickly after her mother’s death, to his high-school sweetheart. With that came rumours of a continued affair and that her step-sister Josie may actually be her half-sister. None of this may seem like a big deal or a reason for her to be cruel, but there is more to it than I am laying out here, mostly because I want to avoid spoiling what is actually a very engaging, gripping story.
The characters in this book are all fully fleshed out and believable. And although Liz can be frustrating and extremely superficial, there’s so much more to her, things that are slowly revealed as you read, that you can’t help but warm to her. Her relationship with Alex seems very real too. They’re two people who have little in common stuck together, trying to figure out why, and they don’t always get on. To say that such a significant thing has happened they still focus on petty problems, and I believed that. We get insights into Liz’s other friends’ lives also, through her memories and following them around. Each time you think you’ve got them figured out, another layer is revealed, and it’s often surprising.
The only thing I could say about this book that might be slightly negative (although I didn’t think of it that way) was that the ending wasn’t surprising. The main mystery, such as it is, was resolved exactly as I expected it to be from the beginning. This didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of it, however, as the getting there was worth it. I hadn’t read any Jessica Warman books before this, but given how much I enjoyed it I would definitely look for any others she’s written. They’d be a hard act to follow though.
Ooh! Thanks for that Carrie!