In this haunting tale, quirky loner Evie is in the wrong place at the wrong time when her sometime friend and local crush, Jonah, discovers a body in the woods - a body that turns out to be that of her childhood playmate. At the funeral, a fateful lie leads Evie into a complicated relationship with the dead girl's father and best friend. Before she realizes what is happening, Evie is on the hunt for a killer, spinning more lies along the way and putting herself in serious danger. (book back blurb)
In all honesty, I like where this book started much more than where it ended. In the beginning, Evie was such an awkward character. Like awkward to the point of me actually cringing at some of the things she did. And the thing is, everyone knows at least one person just like this. They're alone. They crave contact, any contact, with someone and sometimes they act like they're 6 to get it. Not to mention they're oblivious to the obvious body language they're being projected from their target. It's uncomfortable to watch and just as uncomfortable to read about. That's what really drew me in.
Evie stayed her awkward self until the body was found and she started hanging out with Hadley, the dead girl's current friend (as opposed to Evie herself, being the dead girl's former friend). Her personality, from what I saw, visibly shifted. I still read about Evie as she normally was in her head. The awkwardness was still there. But outwardly that seemed to have gone away and, I think, rather abruptly. I just had a hard time trying to figure out why she was still awkward on the inside and not anymore on the outside. Did she get better at hiding it because of Hadley? I'm not sure.
Hadley was actually my favorite character, though. I wanted to help her so bad. She was so utterly wrecked after her best friend was killed and the sad thing was, no one was really there to help her. Her parents basically stuck her on drugs and left her to her own devises. Personally I think that's an excellent portrayal of parenting today. Drugs cure all, right? The thing is, Hadley isn't the type of character that would actually let you help her. She's one of those people with the tough exterior that's constantly putting on a front and constantly on the offensive. But those moments of weakness, when the hurt and the pain broke through, rounded her character out so thoroughly I could see her standing up from the page and telling the story herself.
The ending turned into a bit of a Lifetime movie for me. I wish there were more consequences to Evie's lies and the things Hadley did aside from merely growing as characters. There didn't seem to be any of that. I kept getting a real Wonder Years monologue going at the very end where all the loose ends were being tied up and wrapped in a pretty box. I'm not a fan of these types of endings. I like them messier. Here, though, everyone seemed to turn out okay and they all moved on with their lives. Pretty boring, if I had to be honest. And I usually do.
So while the plot is relatively stagnant, the characters carry the story in The Space Between Trees. I don't think you'll be reading it to figure out who Zabet's killer is because even within the story itself, it's not the main focus. You'll read it for the characters who are compelling and awkward and nasty and broken. I would change the ending if I could, but I can't. But some people like the kind of neat closure this story will offer and that's fine. I'm sure if it were told from Hadley's point of view, I would have gotten an ending as sloppy as her house.
Check out the first chapter of The Space Between Trees. This is the one that completely sucked me in if only for Evie's heinous awkwardness.
Thanks to the wonderful people at Chronicle, I have a signed copy of The Space Between Trees to offer up to one lucky winner. Interested? Then fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person, per email. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends August 14th at midnight, EST.