Got up to chapter 37 (178 pages in) before I gave up. After is not romantic. It chronicles an emotionally abusive relationship, romanticizing the "terGot up to chapter 37 (178 pages in) before I gave up. After is not romantic. It chronicles an emotionally abusive relationship, romanticizing the "terrible, hateful person" (the MC's own words) that Hardin Scott is. He is cruel to Tessa in many ways, not the least of which is pushing her into situations that she doesn't want to be in, and I just could not take any more of it.
The prose is stilted, and the story moves along at a snail's pace. Not every thought needs to be elaborated upon.
I love fanfiction. There is a lot of fanfic out there worth publishing. This is not one of them....more
I loved "His Face All Red" when I read it online, and the rest of the stories don't disappoint. "My Friend Janna" was particularly creepy, and I probaI loved "His Face All Red" when I read it online, and the rest of the stories don't disappoint. "My Friend Janna" was particularly creepy, and I probably should not have read it just before going to sleep.
Tell Me More: When I first found Emily Carroll's webcomic "His Face All Red" on a quiet summer afternoon, I had no idea what I had stumbled upon. The comic takes up your entire screen, surrounded by black space, and drawing your eye to the horrifying revelations that come in later panels. Through the Woods cradles this story in the middle of its pages, and its familiarity is surprisingly comforting as the rest of the short stories work their unsettling magic.
"An Introduction" does a superb job at setting the tone of this collection: who hasn't spent nights reading by the light of a single lamp? Who hasn't felt like there was something in the darkness, waiting to draw us down, and curled up closer to the light? It only takes three pages for the chill to settle against the back of your neck, a testament to the strength of Carroll's writing style and art.
All six of the stories involve travel through the woods, easily a metaphor for change and transformation. Death itself is just a transition, not a permanent shift, coming back to pick at the bones of what is left behind. "Our Neighbor's House" starts out with white space, playing at the security we feel in the daylight. The pages never grow completely dark, just shadowed as the story builds to its climax. It may be a polarizing and confusing ending for some, but the various implications of that ending were enough for me to be thoroughly creeped out.
Carroll's use of colour is superb, building the suspense just as deftly as the melody of her words. In "A Lady's Hands Are Cold," our protagonist comes to live in a blue house, blue walls, blue tones. It is cold, deathlike, sterile. But as the story goes on, the colours shift to oranges and red, raising alarm in the reader. There is something coming for her, even as she begins to take control of her own story. "His Face All Red" is similarly enhanced by Carroll's use of colour: the pages are already singed red at the start, only growing darker.
"My Friend Janna" is a strong cautionary tale about playing with forces you can't see, and the greys and dull browns do a fantastic job of drawing a haze around the characters and the reader. It leads perfectly into the final story, "The Nesting Place," which I must admit still makes me uneasy months after reading. It is viscerally frightening, and I do feel that readers should be warned for some body horror that will live with you past the final page.
The scariest thing about all of Carroll's stories are what the characters don't say. It's a reflection of real life, and how we are made uneasy when we aren't sure what people are thinking or doing. The father in "Our Neighbor's House" doesn't explain why they should go to the neighbor if he doesn't come back, just that they should. In "A Lady's Hands," our protagonist's curiousity is stoked by the mystery of the singing voice, something her husband never mentioned. We aren't sure what happens to "Janna," but our imaginations happily take on that challenge. Carroll doesn't have to give us straight, clear-cut explanations, because horror can always be found in what we don't know.
The Final Say: Through the Woods is a stellar collection of beautifully drawn tales, best read as the winter sun begins to set, and the curtains ripple with the wind you're sure can't be coming from outside. Because that window is closed. Right?
I'm mailing this to my best friend tomorrow, that's how much I loved this book.
Tell Me More:Few things call to me the way a Morgan Matson novel can,I'm mailing this to my best friend tomorrow, that's how much I loved this book.
Tell Me More: Few things call to me the way a Morgan Matson novel can, and Since You've Been Gone is no exception. Where Amy & Roger's Epic Detour was romantic, and Second Chance Summer was poignant, Matson's third book is brave, much like its protagonist.
Emily is a character that I could relate to as soon as she was introduced. Her shyness and timid nature is familiar to me, and it wasn't hard to imagine how she felt when Sloane disappeared. Sloane isn't just a best friend--she also represents the things that Emily wishes she could be. She draws Emily out of her safe corner and takes her on adventures, giving her something to hold on to. Their friendship is so much of Emily's own developing identity that Sloane's sudden disappearance stuns and confuses her. The list that she receives becomes her sole link to her friend, and the catalyst for her growth into her own person.
Being shy is challenging, not only because interacting with others is hard, but because when you have someone like Sloane in your life, it's easy to let choices slide to that friend. You're along for the ride and you're safe, because you know that your friend will never lead you astray. Emily believes that even without Sloane's presence, the list will be enough to bring her back. And so she trusts in her friend through petrifying tasks like hugging a Jamie (relatively easy) to going skinny-dipping (crazy hard), because she believes that Sloane has a reason for this, like she has for everything else they've done together. Matson doesn't throw Emily into change--she paves the way, as Sloane does, for Emily to find her own way around life.
Flashbacks illustrate Emily's tendency to draw into herself and Sloane's charismatic personality, and Matson's writing style is similarly nuanced. The list is expanded upon in each flashback, and while Emily isn't as quick to realize it, the reader comes to see just how much Sloane believes in Emily. I would go as far as to say that Sloane believes in Emily more than she does in herself, and that she sees Emily as the kind of person she can never be. And while Sloane is the louder presence in Emily's memories, the list proves just how deeply Emily has influenced and inspired Sloane. I loved that even as Frank and other supporting characters help Emily through each task, they show her how she is capable and strong and everything she thought only Sloane could be.
The Final Say: Morgan Matson captures the doubts and thrills of adolescence, letting them breathe through the story of two girls who see the best of themselves in each other. Since You've Been Gone is a story about true friendship and all the myriad ways that it teaches us to believe in ourselves as much as we believe in our friends.
Tell Me More:About six years ago, I started readingYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: About six years ago, I started reading fanfiction. The experience was incredible because I had no idea people could take well-known characters and plots and reinvent them in such creative ways. Granted, there were also some very poorly written stories, but for the most part, I was enthralled by the sheer scope of imagination that fanfic writers displayed. When I was sent this book for review and saw the synopsis, I was predictably reminded of fanfiction, and that did colour how I saw the book. Unfortunately, the story does not quite work with that comparison.
Between the Lines certainly isn't a horrible book. Its steady pace and high readability will please younger or reluctant readers, and the subject matter isn't shocking in any way. That said, it doesn't offer much to older, more experienced readers, who may be looking for stories that really deal with their insecurities and problems. Delilah is exactly what you'd expect a fifteen-year-old to write as a protagonist--she's shy, a voracious reader and very imaginative. There's nothing to surprise Picoult's audience, though kids like van Leer will certainly be able to relate to Delilah. As for Oliver, he too is the epitome of teenage fantasy. He is a prince, trapped in a world that doesn't understand him, and who needs someone to cling to. Everything was quite pleasantly predictable, from the characters to the plot to the themes of finding where you belong.
Personally, this wasn't a book I would recommend to most YA readers. It reads like a middle grade story, and I do think younger readers will enjoy it immensely. But Picoult and van Leer offer nothing new to the dialogue of teenage literature. It definitely doesn't follow the path that Picoult has laid out with her previous novels. However, there is a certain comfort to be found in this book--it's great to come home after a long, exhausting day of being an adult and settle in with familiar stories and characters. But beyond that, I think van Leer definitely needs more exposure and practice to build on her potential as a writer.
The Final Say: With its not-quite-YA nature, Between the Lines might not be the right book for readers looking for layered plot twists, but it is a pleasant and comfortable read.