REVIEW: Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Published May 1st, 2013 by Harper Collins Australia

Paperback, 336 pages

4/5 Stars

Above all else, though I try not to think about it, I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed. There is no loophole.

Until now, that is…

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted… But just what – and who – is she really risking?

I work in a book department of a big department chain, and when we received this book in-store it grabbed my attention. Not just because of the pretty cover (and let’s be honest, it is beautiful!) but because whenever new releases come in I ALWAYS read their blurbs no matter what they are while I unpack the boxes. After reading the blurb of this book I became intrigued. So much so that every time I walked past the display I mentally went “I have to read this book!”, “I want to read this now.” For whatever reason it took me a while to get to it, and all I can say is that the intrigue, curiosity and desire to simply have the book right now was well deserved.

Having read the blurb of this book my curiosity was peaked to unfathomable level. I walked past the book often telling myself I wanted to read that, and I really wanted to read it badly. So after a couple of weeks I succumbed and started to read it over the long weekend. I was finished by the second day. I read something like 240/330 pages in one day.

I went in liking the premise and thinking I knew where the story was going but at every twist and turn Shirvington moved the story just that little bit out of reach and kept me guessing just a little bit more. Before long I was reading faster to know more, terrified about what might or might not happen and concerned about a few of the main players in the book. Things just didn’t seem quite right on the surface. I was so invested in this book and I’m glad because Shirvington gave me the pay out I so utterly wanted. Although I went in expecting a certain type of thing, I didn’t expect to cry, or laugh or seriously ponder some pretty serious issues within it. In fact I started reading it expecting it just to be a bit of fun. I got a lot more than I bargained for – in a good way.

I feel here that I should warn some readers about the content of this particular narrative. This book focuses in a unique way on the bigger issues of suicide, self harm, drug and alcohol use and sex in the most fascinating way (if I’m  to be completely honest, she lives two lives ultimately in the same world!). I’m not saying that its not dealt with or overly explicit, rather it is the nature of this story and it’s interweaving storytelling that allow for a greater exploration and understanding of these broader issues.  I don’t mean to prattle on like a mother here, It’s just I think this book is aimed at the older edges of YA or fits comfortably within my understanding of NA (New adult) and should be avoided by children and those on the younger maturity side. Nothing is too explicit or gory overall, but the themes feature heavily as the darker side of being a teenager in unknown territory is explored.

All of this said, and despite my above gushing over this book, the narrative is not without fault. There are plot issues that Shirvington has overlooked within the narrative; the most frustrating being the complete lack of explanation for the two lives that Sabine lives and why they exist for her and seemingly her alone. Luckily for Shirvington, the story is beautifully written and so mesmerising that the characters and plot quickly lure you into their world leaving you with no time to questions how and why this world exists the way it does; you just accept that it does. A point I admire this very talented Australian author for achieving.

At it’s core, Between the Lives is a book about love and life, the need to be perfect and the heartbreak that comes hand-in-hand with life. It’s powerful and beautifully written, but most importantly, it’s a book I wish more people knew about.

Read as part of my AWW2013 challenge.

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