Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Between by Jessica Warman

By: Jessica Warman
Published By: Walker & Company
Release Date: Aug. 2, 2011
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Paranormal
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Elizabeth Valchar--pretty, popular, and rich--wakes up the morning after her eighteenth birthday on the yacht where she'd been celebrating with her closest friends. A persistent thumping noise has roused her. When she goes to investigate, she finds her own drowned body is hitting the side of the boat. Liz is dead.

She has no memory of what happened to her, and can only observe in horror the fallout of her death. She's also soon joined by Alex Berg, a quiet boy from her high school who was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The two keep each other company, floating in and out of memories and trying to piece together the details of what happened to each of them.

In her regular life, Liz was a runner. It wasn't abnormal for her to run 8-10 miles per day. But as memories from closer to her death begin to surface, Liz finds that she'd been running much more than normal, and that she'd all but stopped eating. Liz's mother, who died when Liz was nine, had battled with anorexia as well, and those around her worried Liz was following in her mother's footsteps. But something more sinister was consuming Liz from the inside out. . . .

From critically acclaimed author Jessica Warman comes a shocking mystery, a heartbreaking character study, and ultimately a hopeful tale of redemption, love, and letting go.

I've read a lot of ghost stories lately, but Between is not your typical ghost story. Instead, it is the story of a girl, her life, her love, and her choices, and how they lead to her untimely death. Told in alternating past and present tense, Between shows how events can shape lives and that all actions have consequences.

On her eighteenth birthday, Liz Valchar is awoken by a thumping sound. When she goes to find out what it is, she sees her own body, face down in the water, obviously dead. Thinking that she is dreaming, she desperately tries to wake up, but to no avail. She is dead, with no real memories of what happened the night before. Fortunately, she isn't left to wander in this strange semi-existence alone; Alex Berg, a boy from her high school who died the previous year, comes to meet her. Together they weave in and out of memories, trying to piece together what happened the night that Liz died. Alex is insistent that there is a reason they were brought together and that they have to figure out what it might be. As the memories become stronger, it is soon clear that despite the perfect facades of so many high school students, nothing was really as it seemed...

In some ways, Between is almost a story within a story - there is the overall mystery of how Liz died, but there is also her time with Alex, which she spends reinterpreting her memories and learning about herself and about human nature. While the mystery is interesting, it is Liz's journey that really makes this story. Liz may not always be the easiest character to like, but I enjoyed watching her grow. There are some heartbreaking moments in this book, especially when Liz is longing for just a little more time with Richie, her boyfriend. In addition, I loved the way that she and Alex finally came to an understanding about one another. They were simply friends, and the lack of an overt romance was refreshing. Even though I didn't live in the Northeast, I did go to high school in a small town where everyone knew most everyone else, and so in some ways reading this book was like a trip through my own memories.

I will admit that Between reminded me of a few other novels I've read, but I think that within the first few chapters this story did develop its own unique identity. While this book is of a more reflective nature, the underlying mystery of how Liz died, combined with character exploration, made for an intriguing read. Although some of the characters are frustrating at times, the book as a whole is very realistic and very powerful.

Between is by no means a light book. It is a book that makes you think, a book with messages, and a book that will stick with you. I will definitely be reading more by Jessica Warman in the future.


  1. I like ghost stories of all varieties, including the heavier ones. Sounds interesting! Great review!

  2. Great review! I haven't heard of this one before...sounds like a great story.

  3. I found this to be a beautifully-written, suspenseful story. It is thought-provoking, romantic, and poignant, and I highly recommend it.

    Irene (Plumbing Puyallup)


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