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Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Publisher: Hachette Children's Books
Source: Netgalley 
Rating: 3/5

Sabine has always lived two lives - her Roxbury life and her Wellesley life, both of which are almost polar opposites. Each day, she has to go through the motions in Roxbury and then again in Wellesley. She calls the changeover the 'Shift'. However, an accident in her Roxbury life changes everything, causing her to consider sorting out the situation once and for all. She just has to decide which life she'd rather live forever. 

Described as a YA Sliding Doors, I was immediately gripped by this interesting premise and the book certainly started with a bang. I found myself reading much more than I planned each evening thanks to the fast and furious pace and, of course, this perplexing premise. Unfortunately, it kind of fizzled out for me and didn't go in the direction I had expected. I assumed it would be in a similar vein to Teri Terry's Slated series (which I love) but it did not pan out that way. The 'fantastical' element - if you can call it that - took a bit of a back burner once the romance started.

In terms of characters, I couldn't really get on board with Sabine. I respect the name choice though. I empathised with her plight to begin with but she seemed to get lost from about halfway into the book. I understand that she was debating which life to choose but I found it very difficult to get in her head, even though the story was told in the first person. I didn't get Ethan much either but only because I felt like we weren't given the opportunity to get to know him. He just appeared suddenly and then next thing we know, he's everything. Even the explanation at the end didn't make up for the lack of development. I know it was supposed to be Sabine's story but if Ethan was going to be part of her life, he needed to be a little more formed. Overall, I think there were maybe too many supporting characters who were just there, standing around. I felt like there might have been more to Miriam and Lucy - friends of Wellesley Sabine - but their relationship was never explored. However, Roxbury Sabine's best friend Capri was nicely written. Also, why did Wellesley Sabine dislike her brothers so much? Maybe there should have just been the one brother, especially considering the end. 

Then again, this is all down to personal preference. I like a character driven story but if you like a fast paced plot, you'll be pleased with this one. It does move quickly but the direction of the plot switches dramatically, so be prepared. As for what happened to Wellesley Sabine towards the end?! It seemed a little out of the blue and I'm not sure what to think about it. Was it shocking? Yes, definitely and I'm sure that was the intention. However, I can't help think that there might have been another way to propel Sabine's story forward. The whole project was a big one so perhaps I am asking for too much - two lives to flesh out, a fantastical/psychological element, and a romance is a lot to pack in to a 300- odd page book, so props to Jessica Shirvington for even attempting it. 

Overall, I liked the idea and really enjoyed the first half but unfortunately I wasn't overly keen on the finale. I've tried to avoid giving away anything major here but there's a lot I want to talk about, so if you've read it, let me know! 


  1. I've been dying to get my hands on this one. It comes out in the US this summer under a different name. It's a bummer that the second half of the book isn't as good as the first and that the romance takes over, but I almost always love a quickly-paced story so I'm still going to give this one a go. Great review!

    1. Thanks Natalie! Oh yeah it's definitely worth a read. As I said, the idea is interesting. I think it's a good one for a lazy, summer afternoon out in the sunshine.


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