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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

I love finding a book I'd love despite seeing all those not so good reviews for it. Sometimes its good to follow your instincts and read on even if a lot of people tell you its not worth it. You might find it interesting, like I did.

Title: The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Pages: 192
Release Date: May 11th 2010
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Bought
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository


If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications—and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly's few friends think that her parents are divorced—but they're not. Connelly's father died when she was two, and she doesn't know how.

If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn't be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair's friendship grows, Connelly learns that it's the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful.
I was fooled by the summary. I didn't actually mind, but it turned out to be much more different than the story itself. Sure, Connelly weaves fairy tales in her head, with Jeremy as the Prince and she as Rapunzel, and High School was his kingdom, but eventually you'll see that its deeper and more complicated than Connelly thinks it is.

The initial and immediate disappointment I felt vanished right away. I'm just glad that the story turned out to be a great one, though far from what you will expect when you based it on the summary. I always find it hard to "cheer myself up" whenever I read books discussing death in any form, because I can relate to it in more ways than I want to, especially in this book. Death is imminent, as we all know, but watching someone die, someone who used to be healthy and lively wither away before your very eyes is hard to take, no matter what age you are in, no matter how better off in life you are.

My mind could not still wrap around the fact that Connelly and Jeremy were able to bond because of their cigarette sessions. Here you have a story that talks about dealing with death, and Jeremy is wasting his life away by inhaling those "cancer in a stick" cigarettes.

I thought I'd get tired of their "Jeremy takes a cab, visits Connelly, smokes, say a few sentences, kisses her cheek and then leaves" routine, because that was what they mostly did in a significantly large part of the story, but it was those sessions that actually shaped their characters, no matter how slow it made the story feel. The little things that Jeremy and Connelly share with each other, their fears, their plans for the future, their secrets became such a strong bond.

I guess the phrase "Death and Grief brings people together" is true for both Jeremy and Connelly. They were brought together by death, by cancer, and together they found the strength to get through it. Because they have to, they need to move on. Sure it hurts, but like what Connelly's mom said, you get used to it. It doesn't go away but you get used to it. You know those little realizations you pick-up along the way while reading a book? The Beautiful Between has a lot of that. About life, about family, about death, about respect, about love, about being strong and accepting that things just happen for a reason?

I felt like I joined Connelly's journey of finding out what happened to her father, why he died, with her mourning for him a little bit too late, and her healing. Jeremy's was sadder but it felt necessary. It wasn't just because I was sympathazing with him, I understood him. The stages of grief he has to go through will be long and painful, but he will be fine in the end. He knew that. The prince has friends, his family and his Rapunzel.

Alyssa was able to write eloquently the conflicting and strong emotions prevalent on both Connelly and Jeremy's lives.

For the first time in a long while, a book without much romance worked. For me, the friendship Connelly and Jeremy shared is much more satisfying than whatever romantic relationship they might have had.

Despite my disagreements with a few elements in this book, I still think its beautiful (true to the title) and moving. Poignant, engaging and emotional, Alyssa's writing, though flawed, is captivating.

My rating

Content (plot, story flow, character):

Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!

Book Cover:

I think the cover conveys the theme of the story well. Dark and sad looking, it gives out the vibe of a depressing story.


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