Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Beautiful Between, by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

In Connelly's mind, her high school is some sort of fairy tale feudal state. The nobility sashay around, barely noticing the commoners like herself. But then one day Prince Charming (in the form of her classmate Jeremy) does take notice and sits with her at lunch. Ostensibly, he only wants to get help on his vocabulary for the SATs (and he offers physics tutoring in exchange), but something else is up.

He lets slip that he knows how her father died -- a statement which shocks Connelly for two reasons: first of all, because she has never told anyone that her father was dead (instead, she has maintained a lie for years that her parents were just divorced), but more importantly she is surprised because even she does not know what caused his death. This is because, even after thirteen years, her mother won't tell her.

The truth of the matter is that Jeremy is struggling with an impending loss of his own. He hopes that somehow Connelly can help him cope with his problems. Between Connolly's grief for a father long passed and Jeremy's fear of the future, the two of them find an uncommon bond and form an unusual friendship.

This is truly an amazing book and probably one of the best books I have read so far from 2010. Connelly is an insightful and observant narrator -- wise beyond her years, but not distractingly so. She's eminently sympathetic as well. I found that I totally got her and really felt like she was a kindred spirit. And yes, I don't know much about being an adolescent girl, but you don't have to in order to understand Connelly's anxiety and insecurity. These are far more universal feelings and she articulates them well. Sheinmel has a gorgeous writing style that articulates complex feelings in simple but beautiful prose.

I also liked the friendship that develops between Connelly and Jeremy. Rather than have them fall into a predictable romance, they become close friends. This is an unusual approach and, in the end, it is so much more powerful than a romantic relationship would have been.

Finally, the relationship between Connelly and her mother is both realistic and painful. Both of them are hurting and it takes some effort to overcome the barriers they have erected in the years since Connelly's father's death. While this part is less original, it is still powerfully written and highly effective.

I have no issues with wholeheartedly recommending this book. It will totally blow you away!

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