‘Between’ by Dora Hilburn
“17 year old Anna moves into the haunted Fenway House with her dad.” And already at that point, it sounded like one of those novels I’m addicted to scare myself with in the late hours and with only the reading lamp on. But the story was really slow-paced, and the author couldn’t get deep into the characters to build up catching moments. I had so high hopes for this one, but it ended up feeling like preparing for a fabulous teenage road trip — in a car without spark plugs.
April 30th 2015
Publisher, this copy:
The YA checklist has most certainly been followed:
- A teen girl (Anna) moves into a haunted manison (Fenway House) with her dad.
- They are both sad because someone’s missing (Mom).
- Then girl meets boy (Eric).
- Boy needs to be close to girl if anything romantic’s supposed to happen (He can renovate ol’ Fenway House).
- And in order to prevent a too simple insta-love story, we’d better spice it up (A ghost – hey now we can make a love triangle).
But something’s missing; not an element on the YA checklist, but in the way the story is written.
The excitement didn’t even start to build
Anna’s an introvert, and she’s also our first person narrator. She describes herself as a person who “can’t keep up a steady stream of conversation”. And that could be the good reason why the lines in the dialogues are so short and superficial. But I don’t think it is.
There are no funny or charming guys here, no exciting hidden messages between her and Eric. What-you-see-is-what-you-get; conversations simply feel like formalities, the pace is low, and the excitement didn’t even start to build because the ghost presents himself in the prologue.
To me, Anna – our 17 year old protagonist – was the major problem. She didn’t feel like a real teenager, because she sometimes talks and acts like she’s her dads fiancé:
Excerpt from ‘Between’, page 20, When Anna talks about her old house and her dad
“They wanted to buy it, but Walter and I weren’t prepared for that.”
Excerpt from ‘Between’, page 21, when she analyzes her dads career
“I could tell Walter was feeling a sense of freedom too. He had taken a sabbatical from the university, and the next six month were his and to do with as he pleased”
Anna sounds more like the author
When Anna suddenly sounds like an adult and omniscient third person narrator; and very much like the author, the illusion breaks. If you as an author want to show a teenagers concern about her dads well being, there are so many elegant ways to do it with actions or in lines in a teenage way. Letting the teenager do the job as the omniscient narrator and telling it instead of showing it, isn’t one of them.
Had hoped for shivers …
I’m really into stories about haunted houses, and I think the ones where the protagonist is a teenager most often are the best. That’s because teens are feeling and sensing so much more than adults. Everything is getting so intense.
But in this ordinary plot I couldn’t even find strong emotions nor any important themes about ‘teenagers in love’ or the very interesting ‘father-daughter relationship’, which can be so giving in YA, when it’s done right.
I had hoped ‘Between’ could send shivers down my spine, when I first saw it at NetGalley. I didn’t even get a single goosebump.
(Thanks NetGalley for ARC PDF)