Monday, September 30, 2013

Review of The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

St. Martin's Press
The In-Between
by Barbara Stewart
3 Scribbles

To be released, November 2013

The new house in Pottsville was supposed to be a fresh start for Elanor Moss, a place to put her failed suicide and unpopularity to rest. Instead, the new home becomes a place to recover from the tragic car accident that left Ellie near death and half of her family dead. However, Ellie’s new home does offer one good thing—her new best friend, the captivating and mysterious Madeline Torus.  With Madeline’s help, Ellie may have a chance to be a new and improved version of herself. 

Ellie has always struggled with depression and loneliness; according to her mother, Ellie is “up and down like a yo-yo.” But when Madeline arrives, Ellie has hope for her future. Madeline is the girl Ellie has always wanted to be; she has good taste, good looks, and loves Ellie for who she is. Teens may identify with Ellie’s feelings of angst and isolation, as well as her fear of losing Madeline. But Ellie’s voice is not to be trusted, especially when it comes to her relationship with Madeline. Very short chapters move from choppy descriptions of Ellie’s life at school, and the changes she is making, to lovely, yet dark, sections of prose poetry that provide insight into her character. An insight however, that is suspect because in her own words Ellie is an actor who could “win an Academy Award” for the person she has fabricated to play her part. I found myself feeling more and more hopeless as Ellie becomes numb under the influence of medication and she falls further and further into depression. But then in a brilliant move on the part of the writer, Ellie’s mother discovers a photo of Madeline—a photo that casts doubt on Ellie’s mental instability. Is Ellie actually mentally ill or is she being haunted? I had to keep reminding myself that the story is told in the voice of Ellie—is Ellie to be believed? And while this uncertainty adds depth to the story, it frustrated me because I needed to know whose narration was trustworthy—and I simply could not know this to be certain. What I also found a bit perplexing about the story is the family’s lack of support. Ellie’s mother is so solid, yet, despite her drive and talent, Ellie’s family is unusually isolated—as evidenced by the cemetery scene. Even if the Mosses moved a state away from their previous home, don’t they have any family or friends to come to their aide? If this is the case, then Ellie’s family is just as isolated as she is—no wonder she feels so alone. Or perhaps when there is a tragedy of such great magnitude in a family, one is truly alone, and the solitary cemetery scene demonstrates this. Either way, it just seems odd that no one from their old hometown cares a lick about them. Readers who enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher will likely enjoy this eerie work about a truly tortured girl, although they may walk away with more questions than answers.

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