Between by Jessica Warman is a great example of a young adult novel that will be appreciated by those aged fourteen to forty (or older). Although the protagonist is an eighteen-year-old (or literally just a few minutes shy of eighteen), the themes of love, popularity, social pressure, death, jealousy, and betrayal are ageless.
Elizabeth Valchar has it all. She’s beautiful, wealthy, popular and has a boyfriend she loves. However, things are not always as they appear to be; Liz lost her mother at age nine to anorexia. Her mother died in front of her, and shortly after that her father married Nicole, whose daughter Josie was one of Liz’s best friends.
To make matters more confusing, it is rumored around town that Josie, six months younger than Liz, was actually Liz’s half-sister.
But the worst thing? Elizabeth Valchar finds out in the first chapter that she’s dead.
Liz is the stereotypical girl that you want to hate. She is a super-bitch, snobby, smug, and supercilious when dealing with the “nobodies” she encounters when she steps outside of her rarified circle of friends and family.
When she is confronted by another teen from her high school who died a year before, they work together to understand why they are still around. It’s not as if there are any other dead people in town. Together, they learn to break social barriers and understand each other in a way that never would have been possible in their lifetimes.
Warman writes authentically in first person and her writing is both poignant and humorous. For example, when Liz’s boyfriend is talking to her running coach, she writes:
“I come from a good family, Mr. Riley. I’m a good kid.”
“You’re a drug dealer, Richie.”
“Okay, aside from that…”
But Richie IS a good kid, and the love he and Liz feel for each other is touchingly portrayed.
Warman takes a topic that has been done over and over again and done well in Before I Fall, Dead Rules, Everlost, and more. And Warman adds another well done story to the group. Between is similar in some respects — the dead main character who changes and matures — but even though many of the mysteries in the story can be solved early on, Warman keeps the reader wanting to know how it all ends.
It’s also nice to read a story that ends on the last page. No sequel, no trilogy. Just a darned good book.
Available at local independent bookstores like The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, The Book Bin in Northbrook, and Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and Downer’s Grove.
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This book was reviewed from an advanced readers edition provided by the publisher. It is possible that changes will be made prior to publication.