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The In-Between: A Novel Paperback – November 5, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—This novel takes the blue ribbon for surprise endings. Ellie is the narrator, but with her history of mental illness, is she reliable? After a suicide attempt, a horrific car wreck, the death of her father, and abandonment by her best friend, the 14-year-old feels more fragmented than ever. When Madeline befriends Ellie, she can't believe her luck; Madeline is everything Ellie wishes she was-beautiful, thin, confident-and dead. Soon, Madeline's friendship takes an obsessive, demanding turn, and Ellie must decide if she values the relationship more than her own life. Stewart conveys with gripping conviction the differences in Ellie's perceptions and those of Ellie's mother. Ellie sees, hears, and feels Madeline though her mother does not, or at least says she does not. The creepiness of the story is intensified by the reader's growing awareness that Madeline is much more than Ellie's ghostly BFF. In the vein of V. C. Andrews, Stewart has created a taut psychological drama that teens will adore.—Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC
Fourteen-year-old Elanor Moss and her family are moving to a new town after her suicide attempt during her eighth-grade year. They are hopeful that starting high school in a new environment will break the chain of painful events that has been Elanor’s adolescence. But en route to their new home, they’re in a terrible car crash that kills Ellie’s beloved cat and one of her parents—and at first the question is, which parent? Stewart’s tightly constructed ghost story is tantalizingly creepy with completely believable twists. We meet Ellie’s twin, Madeline, who was not a miscarriage but mysteriously disappeared in utero. Her eerie power over Ellie leads to dark places, including a unique take on near-death experiences. Ellie’s dad suffered from severe depression, and her mother recognizes Ellie needs help and gets her therapy and hospitalization. But it’s a steep spiral down into Ellie’s mind as she succumbs to mental illness. Stewart’s debut novel is a riveting page-turner with real empathy and compassion. The journal format clarifies Ellie’s different stages and lends a wonderful voyeuristic appeal. Grades 8-11. --Debbie Carton
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Top Customer Reviews
Things in the in-between are fine. This is the time and place where Ellie enjoys Madeline’s presence. But when the in-between collides with the real world, Ellie has to go to counseling and take medication. She harms herself. Her mother and other people become afraid of her. Meanwhile, Madeline isn’t all that she appears to be. She has the potential to turn against Ellie and make life even more difficult.
This novel is dark, bizarre, and eerie…so I liked it a lot. The narrator is unreliable and perhaps mentally ill. Throughout I wondered if she’s really ill or if she’s being haunted by Madeline. It’s a fast read, although I felt uncomfortable reading it alone at night since it’s scary. I read this via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.
This book is a hard one for me to review. It was really different and unique - like nothing I've ever read before. I didn't know what to expect and I was kind of confused the majority of the time. It was hard to tell what was real and what wasn't - what was true and what was imagined. I suppose that was part of the author's plan for the book, in which case it was executed with great precision. The plot was truly original and mind bending - a blend of paranormal, contemporary, and thriller all at once. The relationship between Ellie and Madeline is fascinating and really intriguing - I really loved how the author took it somewhere unexpected. The ending blew my mind - Madeline's plan and the events that take place - it all fit perfectly with the rest of the book. The characters were well written and had great personalities with distinct flaws and strengths, which helped them to be realistic and accessible to me as a reader. The author used vivid details and descriptions to really engage the reader and bring them into Ellie's world and mind - so much so that it was hard to get back out after the book was over. There's so much to this story - some makes sense, some doesn't until after you've finished, and some continue to puzzle me long after finishing. I know this review sounds really vague and confusing, but I don't want to have any spoilers or ruin anything for readers. Overall, this was an exceptional debut and an author you'll definitely want to be watching. Definitely recommended for fans of strange and creepy thrillers along with paranormal fiction.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Though the setting seems ordinary and the people ordinary, Stewart makes them vibrant. Loss and betrayal and madness lie in every shadow of this novel—real terrors that cause real physical and emotional damage. The book’s core question is the one central to every Gothic novel: “What is real?” The author provides no easy answer and at the end of the book, in a marvelous twist, suggests that the answer may be irrelevant.
The In-Between is a thriller of identity—one in which the ordinary reveals itself as. at times, chillingly extraordinary. From the book’s opening lines, the writing is restrained yet beautifully evocative: “Bloodstains bloom through my t-shirt and jeans, and my hair sparkles with bits of broken glass. My parents sparkle and bloom, too.” The plotting is clear and crisp and filled with surprises, moving at the slow-quick pace of the moments before an accident when all you can do is watch the inevitable bearing down on you.
Elanor’s voice is the novel’s engine—shrewd and vulnerable, self-pitying and self-excoriating, clear and confused. A perfect chiaroscuro of adolescence. She speaks with the clarity and anxiety of a girl with a flashlight making her way through an unfamiliar forest.
No one better than a clear-sighted adolescent to expose human hypocrisy and the conventions of “healthy” thought and feeling—with their strictures against wonder and fear and the darkness of genuine psychological depth—and Elanor is a careful critic, as hard on herself as she is on others. But finally she shows herself resourceful and compassionate.
This is beautiful novel, a joy to read, and it deserves the widest possible audience.