On the dawn of her eighteenth birthday, Elizabeth Valchar wakes on her father’s yacht after a night of partying and walks onto the deck to investigate a noise. She finds herself staring at a dead body in the water. Her own body. Liz is forced to witness her family and friends coming to terms with her sudden passing and helped by Alex, a fellow school boy who has also met an untimely death, she dips in and out of memories, trying to find the key to her death.
Between is great teen thriller, packed full of intrigue, secrets, and lies; it skillfully takes the traditional who-done-it theme and gives it a quirky twist. It might not be totally original and to many will be reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, but the only similarity remains the leading character needing to solve the mystery of her death before going on to the other side. Between is not as dark as The Lovely Bones in many ways, but it is still gripping. Think more of a cross between between The Lovely Bones and the movie Mean Girls. Because Liz is not a pleasant character, at all. And she is unaware of that, at first, because she is the popular, rich golden girl at school and thinks everybody sees her that way. It is always a gamble for authors to make their main character unlikable, but Jessica Warman makes it work, and one of the strengths of the book is that we see Liz “mature” and face up to her actions. In turn, we witness her getting rid of all the layers she has put up to protect herself and show who she really is to Alex, and to the readers. The reader’s sympathy towards her does grow as she uncovers her true self. Her other redeeming feature is her devotion for boyfriend Richie, who was by far my favourite character. Their relationship is lovely and pure, in contrast to all that happens alongside it; it is also rather tragic in a way. This brings a romantic edge to an otherwise rather gritty thriller.
As well as being a great compelling read, what I liked about Between is that it doesn’t shy away from showing the ugly side of bullying; it is cringey and uncomfortable in parts, but that’s the way it should be when one is reading about bullying. It also deals quite bluntly with themes of superficiality and popularity, all themes that teen readers will be well aware of and be able to relate to.
The eventual discovery of the perpetrator of her murder brings no big surprise, yet the ending remains very satisfying, especially as the reader finally understands the reason and purpose of Alex’s presence.
Between is a very gratifying thriller, which hooked me right in.
Thank you to Egmont for sending me a review copy of “Between”.