Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Published: 1 May 2013 (print)/1st May 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Macmillan Australia/Naxos Audio
Pages: 336/8 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Matilda Reed
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Sabine isn’t like anyone else. For as long as she can remember, she’s had two lives. Every twenty-four hours she “shifts,” living each day twice. In one life, Sabine has everything: popular friends, perfect grades, expensive clothes, and the guy everyone wants. In the other, Sabine’s family struggles financially, and her friends are considered rebels. But then she meets Ethan. He’s gorgeous and challenging, and he makes her feel like she’s never felt before.

All Sabine really wants is the chance to live only one life. But when this finally becomes possible, is she willing to risk everything – including losing the one person who might actually believe her – to make it happen?

CW: self harm, drug use, overdose, physical abuse

Note: This review contains minor spoilers

This is a reread of a book I first read in 2014 and I’m surprised that I’ve gone from a 5 star rating to a 2 star review. I think at the time I was amazed at how Shirvington created this world. Her creativeness of how Sabine shifted between worlds, how the rules were changing, what it meant for her life and her decisions caught me more than the problems I can obviously see now.

I did this as an audio second time round and to be honest it was hard to get through it. I had it on the fastest speed I could still understand and I was tired of this story fairly early. Once you see the problems it is hard to see past them.

I feel like having lived for essentially 36 years instead of her single 18 she should be more mature, smarter, and sensible than she is. Sabine has managed her two families and lives well enough — she can live two lives and not get them mixed up, has never forgotten which world she was in, but having lived twice as long as anyone else she is still acting foolishly.

No wonder she is sent to an institution because she’s clearly gone to the extreme self-harm approach instead of doing normal less extreme tests. The blasé attitude she has towards it as well is concerning. She can’t see anything wrong with it, she doesn’t think it’s a big deal and in a YA book especially, to show it as “no big deal” is incredibly troubling.

The abuse of power by Ethan when he was acting as her “nurse” while she was in the hospital crosses a lot of boundaries and whether Sabine wants him or not is no issue, but Ethan crosses a line, whether it’s because he believes her story and knows she isn’t mentally unstable is beside the point. I’m sure somewhere in there there’s an ethical issue as well, and a breach of privacy but I’m not sure on that one. It’s a vague set up Shirvington has going on.

It isn’t a bad concept to be fair, as I say, I did give it five stars the first time around. The ideas are interesting, I liked the fact we have no explanation of why and really the mystery isn’t the point of the story. It is what it is and we follow the change in Sabine’s life as suddenly the rules have changed.

As you read you make your own judgements about which life Sabine should live in and which one would benefit her. Both sides have pros and cons but as the story goes on you can see how the idyllic world may not always be what it seems. On a lighter note, I was annoyed Sabine didn’t use her two lives to her advantage more often. It would have been a great way to test out the consequences and the effects a lot better too.

Where Shirvington fails is that she included these Big Issues and she treats them as if they mean nothing. Not only the detailed description and flippant self-harm, but also abuse. Minor spoiler, but you can’t go from being assaulted to kissing and sleeping with someone else. It just isn’t possible – especially given the examples we’ve seen of how the mentality of the other life comes across. How Sabine is not still reacting from the other life when she shifts is unbelievable when we’ve seen her still reacting from a lot less.

I feel bad having such a shift in rating but I think it’s a good look at how upon initial readings you can get blinded by the overall artwork and not see the cracks that make up that artwork.

You can purchase Between the Lines via the following

 BooktopiaDymocks

 Amazon Aust | Audible

Dear Grandpa by Kate Simpson

Published: August 2019 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Ronojoy Ghosh
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A picture book about the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather, who stay close even when they are separated by distance.

Grandpa, did you know that if you rub a needle with a magnet, one end will point to the north and the other end to the south? In the south there’s an apartment building 160 metres tall. From the balcony, you can see the entire city. There are cinemas and ice cream shops … and me!

As Henry measures the distance between his new apartment and Grandpa’s wooden house under the mango tree, Grandpa works out how close they really are. A moving story that celebrates the bond between a boy and his grandfather.

This is a great story about families who live far apart but can still have meaningful and connected lives. We learn about Grandpa and Henry through their letters to one another – the content of which explores facts Henry’s learning and we learn about where he lives and what he has been doing as he recounts it to his grandpa.

Simpson shows us that Henry is loving and likes to share fun facts with his grandpa while Grandpa is supportive of his affection and adds his own fun to the letters as well. Telling these things in a letter to his grandpa is sweet and it shows the fun whimsical relationship the pair have.

Ghosh’s illustrations are a beautiful addition. The letters between Grandpa and Henry take centre stage but around them Ghosh has created stunning illustrations about their content with everything from a picture of Henry’s new neighbourhood to a beautiful two page spread of blue whales and Grandpa floating through the milky way. What I love about these illustrations is Ghosh alternates between Henry’s life and the real world and Grandpa’s exaggerations.

The symmetry between the start and end of the narrative is clever and I loved how it created a nice frame not only story wise, but by creating similar emotions that we experienced at the start but which have evolved as we’ve read the story.

This is a beautiful story about missing family but still being able to connect with them and share your lives with them. The relationship comes across the page as you go back and forth between the pair, Simpson capturing the light but deep connection between grandfather and grandson remarkably well. There is a lot said in these pages and even through the most innocent and whimsical interactions it tells so much.

You can purchase Dear Grandpa via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Darkest Place by Jaye Ford

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1st February 2016
Publisher:
Random House Australia
Pages: 390
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Carly Townsend is starting over after a decade of tragedy and pain. In a new town and a new apartment she’s determined to leave the memories and failures of her past behind. However that dream is shattered in the dead of night when she is woken by the shadow of a man next to her bed, silently watching her. And it happens week after week.Yet there is no way an intruder could have entered the apartment. It’s on the fourth floor, the doors are locked and there is no evidence that anyone has been inside. With the police doubting her story, and her psychologist suggesting it’s all just a dream, Carly is on her own. And being alone isn’t so appealing when you’re scared to go to sleep.

This is a perfectly suited Long Lost Review because I remember bits and pieces of this book but not enough to write a proper review about it.

Looking at the literal one sentence note I wrote about it when I read it in 2016 I determined it was clever and “You understand Carly’s reasoning for what she does, and even at the end, she leaves you wondering about her and what her future holds.” All very important pieces of information.

I remember feeling unsettled as I read, the nature of the story and how Ford plays with your mind that you get caught up in Carly’s own paranoia. As she suspects the people around her so do you and the unknown is a very good fear factor. The simplicity of this thriller is what makes it works. It isn’t anything over the top, it relies on playing with the human experience, the unsettling nature of the unexplainable and our own fears and using that against us. The everyday nature of the narrative is what connects you, the fact this could happen to anyone is where it becomes most unnerving.

I would be interested in a revisit to this story because I think I remember how this ends but getting caught up in Ford’s gripping, dark and twisted story again could be worth it.

You can purchase Darkest Place via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

  Amazon Aust

Meet Me at the Intersection ed. Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina

Published: 3rd September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Fremantle Press
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices. 

Meet Me at the Intersection is filled with some brilliant stories and pieces of work by authors who are showing that those marginalised and seldom heard voices can be just as powerful and have just as important stories to tell. It is filled with the voices of Young Adult authors and stories but is an anthology that can and should be read by everyone.

The collection is filled with a range of forms and styles from poetry, memoirs and short stories. Each author brings their own style of writing and it was a nice to see so many different voices through the book. There are little explanations of each author and their background before each piece and it is clear there is diversity across all kinds.

In terms of content, each piece takes place in a different time period and it was refreshing to see not every story was contemporary; and while this makes sense for memoir, some of the other stories were from other time periods as well. I also loved the way these stories have been ordered in the collection. In the introduction it mentions that the oldest culture of storytellers deserves to go first and I loved that that was acknowledged.

What made this anthology stand out to me was it never felt like there was a single message being highlighted, instead it was about representation. The blurb mentions that the focus of the work is to represent the everyday lives of Australians and it has succeeded brilliantly. In doing so you gain an understanding by reading about these fictional, semi fictional, and real lives about the ordinariness and extraordinariness of a diverse group of writers. it is wonderfully eye opening and showcases that these lesser heard and unique voices have some amazing stories to tell. It is an anthology filled with own voices and is beautifully, distinctly Australian. What more could you ask for?

You can purchase Meet Me at the Intersection via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust