Thursday, February 9, 2012

Between by Jessica Warman

Between is a story about two ghosts/spirits who spend time "between" Earth and the afterlife solving the mystery of how they died, so they can find eternal peace.

It is the eve of Elizabeth Valchar's 18th birthday and she's spending it on her family's boat with friends, drinking and doing recreational drugs. Elizabeth is attractive and popular, part of the "in" crowd in her high school. She has it all; beauty, a cute boyfriend, a flashy car, and plenty of money. Early in the morning, Liz is awakened by an annoying, persistent, thumping noise outside the boat. When she goes to investigate she makes the shocking discovery that it is her body, face down in the water. Liz soon discovers that while she can see and hear the living, she cannot touch or interact with them in any way.

However, Liz is not alone for long. Her spirit is soon found by another spirit, that of Alex Berg, a boy from her school who was killed a year ago by a hit and run driver. His death was never solved with the identity of the driver unknown. Alex can see and touch Liz and communicate with her. Because Alex lived in another part of town, wasn't wealthy or popular, Liz and her posse ignored Alex. Now in death, Alex can barely contain his contempt for her.

Liz finds that she has no memory of what happened on the night she died, nor of many other details of her life. But she learns that she can slip back into memories, which begin to help her piece together the final months leading up to her death. Together Alex and Liz begin through a series of flashbacks to uncover the truth about what happened on the eve of Liz's eighteenth birthday.

Jessica Warman does a good job of retaining the reader's interest throughout the novel with a well paced narrative that paints a picture of a group of selfish, spoiled teens concerned only with looking good and being popular. There are several mysteries to be solved, and these serve as the hook drawing the reader in. A few examples will suffice. What is the connection between Liz and Alex? Was Liz's death an accident or the result of something more sinister? Some readers may solve these mysteries sooner than others but as the story begins to come together it's not hard to piece together what happened.

As the narrative progresses, we see Liz undergo a process of self-discovery that transforms her from a self-absorbed, spoiled teenager, concerned only about money, looks and status, to a more caring person who is sorry for some of the things she did when she was alive. So the book opens with most of the characters being being genuinely unlikable, including Liz. That changes by the end with Liz having redeemed herself as much as is possible for a ghost.

Between is a book with themes of redemption, loss, love and forgiveness. The premise of the book is what caught my attention and I wasn't disappointed. Some readers might be put off by the length of the book (slightly over 450 pages) but the story is well told in Liz's voice, which is authentic, full of angst and regret at some of her poor choices.

Book Details
Between by Jessica Warman
New York: Walker & Company 2011
454 pp.

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