Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Slide by Jill Hathaway

 "I can never get used to the feeling of looking through someone else's eyes. It's as if each person sees the world in a slightly different hue. The tricky part is figuring out who the person is. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle --- what do I see, hear, smell? Everything is a clue."

Sylvia (Vee) Bell is a pink haired sophomore who lives with her constantly absent, pediatric surgeon father and her annoying younger sister, Mattie.  Her mother died from pancreatic cancer and Vee misses her terribly. Diagnosed as having narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder in which a person experiences "sleep attacks"), what Vee really has is the strange ability to "slide" into another person's consciousness and see things from their perspective. This ability comes in quite handy when a friend, Sophie Jacobs is found dead and believed to have committed suicide.

Vee however, believes there is more to Sophie's death. Although she knows Sophie is very distraught over something, she knows for certain that Sophie did not kill herself. This is because Vee unintentionally slides into the killer's consciousness when she touches a sheet from a calendar pad she found taped to her front door and not only sees Sophie on her deathbed but the killer's gloved hands as well.  Since Vee can only slide into a person by touching something that they have emotionally imprinted on, she reasons that the killer was at their house that day. Although everyone believes Sophie's death was a suicide and not a murder, Vee cannot tell others what she knows. She doesn't want her father to send her back to the psychiatrist as he did when he first found out about her ability to "slide:. Vee must try to figure out who killed Sophie and the best way to do this is to slide into potential suspects.

At first she suspects her sister's friend, Amber Prescott, who had a "plan to put her back in her place". Vee knows that Sophie has been the target of bullying by her sister Mattie and Amber. Both girls took compromising pictures of Sophie and sent them to the phones of the football team. She also knows that something bad went down between Sophie and Vee's ex-friend Scotch Becker, who almost succeeded in raping Vee.

But circumstances soon lead Vee to consider potential suspects. First there's her guy friend, Rollins, who's been acting strange lately. Is he jealous of her new friend Zane Huxley or just strange for another reason? Then when Vee remembers seeing Sophie with Mr. Golden who teaches AP Psychology, and crying, she wonders if he could be the killer. The only way for Vee to find out is to investigate on her own, using her ability to slide.

When another girl dies, Vee begins to realize that there is a real possibility her sister Mattie will be the next target. As she slides into more people, Vee begins to uncover secrets about her friends and teachers, but more importantly about her father. What she learns about her father will become important later on. Vee is able to eliminate some suspects but is still not able to solve the mystery of Sophie's death. In a sudden twist of events, Slide comes to a heart-stopping climax, revealing the killer and the motive behind the murders.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. First Hathaway's concept of sliding is brilliant and makes for an interesting beginning to the novel. But the novel begins to unwind after the point where Vee sees Sophie's death. Knowing that she can only slide from objects that others emotionally imprint upon, Vee's logical next step would be to try to locate the owner of the sheet from the calendar pad since it was this item that caused her to slide into the killer's consciousness. This piece of evidence comes directly from the killer. Instead, she loses this evidence and therefore contact with the killer. We however, don't really pick up on this important piece of information until much later in the novel. I felt the author could have used Vee sliding into the killer as a more effective means of creating suspense in the novel.

Vee's sliding doesn't really help her solve the crime other than by eliminating potential suspects, and providing the author with a device to tell the reader more about each character. Instead, Vee relies on her ability to think quickly and reason together pieces of the evidence - the key being the sheet from the calendar pad- to figure out what is happening.

In fact, the actual perpetrator ends up being a minor character introduced only at the very end of the novel, who has the most ridiculous motive for murder. It feels like the storyline and its ending weren't well thought out. A disappointing ending to a novel that began with much promise. Because the murderer is a minor character this means that the reader really can't solve this mystery but must follow along as things happen to Vee or those around her.

Hathaway does a wonderful job of recreating the high school environment with its changing loyalties, cliques, bullying, and blossoming romances. The interactions between characters are believable, especially those between Vee and her teachers. There are lots of issues that are a part of high school life which are touched upon even if only briefly in Slide; teen pregnancy, eating disorders, over the counter drug abuse, mental illness, bullying, teen dating, cyber bullying, date rape and suicide.

The author also does a great job of having Vee explore the relationships she has with the people around her - her family and friends. Vee's introspective character allows the reader to understand her and the relationships she has with her father, her sister Mattie, and with her friends, Rollins and Sophie.

Slide is an interesting novel, with some weak plot points, and which should have ditched the mystery element, focusing instead on the characters and their inter-relationships. This novel could have had a more intriguing cover too.

For those who are interested, Slide does have a sequel, Impostor, which is due out March, 2013. The synopsis from Jill Hathaway's blog reads:

What if a killer took control of you?

Vee Bell’s gift (or curse) of “sliding”—slipping into the mind of another person and experiencing life, briefly, through his or her eyes—has been somewhat under control since she unwillingly witnessed the horrific deaths of her classmates six months ago.

But just as things are getting back to normal, Vee has a very bizarre experience: she loses consciousness and finds herself in a deserted area, at the edge of a cliff, with the broken body of the boy who took advantage of her on the rocks below.

As Vee finds herself in stranger and stranger situations with no memory of getting there, she begins to suspect that someone she knows has the ability to slide—and that this “slider” is using Vee to exact revenge on his or her enemies.

Book Details:
Slide by Jill Hathaway
New York: HarperCollins Children's Books    2012
250 pp.

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