iBooks vs. Kindle App on iPad
2011 Cybils Nominations Are Now Open

Between: Jessica Warman

Book: Between
Author: Jessica Warman
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

211103_136013466413862_1223380_n Between is a paranormal mystery by Jessica Warman. When popular it girl Elizabeth Valchar wakes up in the middle of the night on her father's yacht, she hears something thumping against the side of the boat. She's horrified to see the dead body of a girl facedown in the water. She's even more horrified to realize that the body belongs to her.

Liz finds herself trapped in limbo, able to see and hear her friends and family members, but unable to communicate with them. The only person she can communicate with is Alex Berg, a boy from her class who was killed in a hit and run accident a year earlier. She has only limited memories of her life and who she is. Liz travels back into her own memories, between watching her family and friends in the present, trying to figure out what kind of person she was in life and what caused her death.

Between is compelling - I read it in just a couple of days, sneaking in a few pages whenever I could. The resolution of the various mysteries wasn't a big surprise, but it was interesting to see how the various plot threads tied together.

Liz, particularly the living Liz, isn't particularly likeable. Neither are her friends (with the possible exception of her boyfriend, Richie). Neither is Alex, unpopular in life, and wearing an enormous chip on his shoulder in death. Early in the book, there's a fair bit of Liz ranting about how popular she was, and Alex being sarcastic and nasty about it. The two do reach an understanding, eventually, but their roles still feel a bit stereotyped. Like this:

"This cannot really be happening," I say, even though I know it is happening. "It's my birthday. People aren't supposed to die on their birthday! Especially not me. I'm Liz Valchar." I'm almost shouting. "I'm very popular, you know! Nobody will be happy about this."

His voice is bone dry. "Yes, Liz. I'm aware of your social status." (Page 26)

And this:

"He looks around my room, observing the mess and disarray. "It's funny," he says. "I always thought you guys -- everyone in the upper social echelon -- I assumed you had such simple, perfect lives. Everything seemed so easy for you." (Page 147)

We learn that a number of things in Liz's life weren't easy, as she examines how these things made her who she was. I found her self-analysis a bit overly explained, but I suspect that teen readers will be more able than I am to relate to that figuring out of self. And that is the point of the story, after all, for her to be caught in limbo until she figures things out.

There's a fair bit of discussion about eating disorders in Between. Not the mechanics of eating disorders, but the motivation, the need to exert control, that can lead to anorexia. I thought that this aspect of the book was well done.

I also thought that Warman did a nice job with mood and setting. There's a vaguely otherworldly tone to the book (helped out by the creepy cover), in contrast to the real-world settings. Liz's street, the boat, and the graveyard where she ends up buried all feel three-dimensional, despite not being described in great detail. Warman uses flashes of images, like Richie sitting on his windowsill smoking out the window, and they work well together.

All in all, I found Between enjoyable and memorable (if occasionally irritating). I think if the premise of a popular girl caught in limbo after her death, trying to figure out what happened to her, grabs you, then you should take a look at Between. And it is nice to see a paranormal mystery, to counter the current glut of paranormal romance novels.

Publisher: Walker (@BWKids)
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.