Friday, January 15, 2021

The In-Between

Ansari, Rebecca. The In-Between
January 26th 2021 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Cooper is angry that his father has left him, his sister Jess, and his overworked mother in a run down neighborhood in Chicago and is now in California with his new wife and son. The rage spills into other areas of his life-- he has trouble getting along with his friends because their families are intact, and he is especially angry with the quiet, uncommunicative girl, Elena,  in the newly renovated house next door. He managed to be kind to his sister, and to help her manage her diabetes, but he is somewhat relieved when a new boy at school, Gus, befriends him. Gus is having trouble fitting in, having been sent to live with his irascible grandmother while his parents are divorcing. The two boys bond over this, and also over one very odd fact. Cooper, Jess, and Gus can see Elena's house differently than everyone else. To them, it is decrepit and abandoned. When Jess is obsessed with an old train accident, and an unidentified boy who died, Cooper and Jess realize that Elena's school sweater has the same crest on it and start to investigate. what her connection might be. They eventually find that Elena and her sister were killed many years ago, but never died, and seem to travel from tragedy to tragedy, living in "the in-between". Because the three children can see Elena and the true state of her house, they worry that they are next in line for the tragedy they suspect that Elena will precipitate. Will they be able to find out what Elena's true purpose is, and to save themselves?
Strengths: There are lots of twists and turns in this that I don't want to spoil! The real life portions of the story, with Cooper's absent dad, frazzled mother who is ready to move on, and responsibility for his sister's well-being, is solidly well constructed and believable. The constant dinners of various egg dishes was funny but made complete sense! The in-between is built and revealed in an understandable way. Elena and Gus are interesting characters, for various reasons, and there's a lot of hidden depth that we eventually see. Definitely an interesting story, and I love the cover. 
Weaknesses: This started out on the slow side, and a lot of time was spent on Cooper's various feelings of sadness, which also slowed down an otherwise interesting story. If this discussion had been replaced by ghosts haunting Cooper, it would do better with my students, who are always in favor of killer ghosts!
What I really think: This was sort of a mix of Scarrow's Time Riders and Plum's Before I Die if it had been written by Judy Blume or Linda Urban. It was fine, but everyone else seems to be far more excited about it than I am. 

Also, Alysa Wishingrad, who has an upcoming book, The Verdigris Pawn, and I think that Twitter should be used for helping everyone plan dinner. We use the hashtag #kidlitsupperclub. This book spawned shakshuka for dinner!

 Ms. Yingling

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