Connelly Sternin is good at pretending. She’s especially good at imagining things and, sometimes, at making things up. It’s easy when she has spent most of her life convincing everyone at her school that her parents are divorced when really her dad died and Connelly has no idea how.
But it’s okay. Sometimes Connelly thinks of herself as a kind of Rapunzel–a princess trapped in a tower watching life through a window. Maybe she’s being punished, living in the tower. Or maybe it’s protection from a secret too painful to talk about.
Pretending is easier than actually being involved anyway. It’s easier to watch Jeremy Cole walk through life like some kind of crown prince instead of talking to him. It’s easy to marvel at his little sister Kate and how perfect everything is for her and her brother.
Except maybe things aren’t so easy. For either of them.
As Connelly starts an unexpected friendship with Jeremy she learns that appearances can be deceiving and perfect doesn’t always last forever. As she learns more about her own past and Jeremy’s uncertain future, Connelly realizes that the truth might be harsher than pretending–but it’s also the only thing that can help her move on in The Beautiful Between (2010) by Alyssa B. Sheinmel.
The Beautiful Between is Sheinmel’s first novel.
The Beautiful Between is an interesting book because parts of it were really engaging. And some parts were not. The main problem is that the book is poorly summarized on the jacket. The plot there has next to nothing to do with the real plot. I tried to be more accurate in my summary here, but this one is hard to pin down partly because it is so subtle.
Sheinmel’s writing has moments of brilliance interspersed with a plot that is sometimes predictable and often simply too short (the whole book is 182 pages). In some ways the story finishes where I wish it could have began because I wanted to hear more about Connelly, Jeremy, and what the future had in store for them.
Other aspects of the novel felt strange. The smoking motif felt incongruous in a book written in 2011 although I did know kids who smoked in high school–probably everyone does. I didn’t love that Connelly smoked just to be close to the boy. Similarly the extended fairy tale metaphor was interesting–it was one of the main reasons I picked up the novel honestly–but it didn’t really make sense with the plot. It worked but it didn’t need to be there.
Ultimately The Beautiful Between is a story about friendship, loss and how to survive both. It is complex and subtle even if some elements didn’t work perfectly. I look forward to picking up Sheinmel’s next novel to see how she has grown as a writer because, really, a lot of this book is very promising.
Possible Pairings: The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford