From the author—
Beautiful, wild-child Nicole Tepper is hit by a car and left for dead. But when she wakes the next morning, Nicole finds herself in bed without a scratch. Perhaps she was more intoxicated than usual, as her mother is giving her the silent treatment and her friends are ignoring her as well.
Things take a turn for the weird when Nicole soon discovers she is actually hovering between life and death. Her body is lying in the forest while her spirit is searching for anyone who can hear her. Unfortunately the only person who can is Dale Finnigan, the guy she publicly humiliated with a sharp-tongued insult that has left him branded.
Desperate, Nicole has no choice but to haunt Dale and convince the freaked-out senior to help her. Will he find her body before it’s too late? Or will the guy who tried to kill her with his car, beat him there and finish her off before anyone finds out?
I’m fond of contemporary young adult fiction (except the kind that dwells endlessly on angst and hormones) and of paranormal fiction and Betwixt fills the bill nicely for both. The author doesn’t make the mistake of dragging out the beginning, instead getting right to the core crisis and letting the reader get to know the characters as the story unfolds. I liked that a lot because it created a strong sense of suspense right away and I had a natural sympathy for this girl rather than learning to dislike her and then having to drum up a little bit of empathy.
Disliking Nicole is certainly easy early on as she shows herself to be one of the mean girls who counts popularity above everything else and who apparently cares about exactly nothing and yet…
As Nicole begins to panic when she realizes she’s, to all intents and purposes, a ghost, it’s impossible not to begin to care about this lost girl. That’s especially true when her invisibility allows her to see the truth about her “friends” and the damage she’s been doing to herself. Her fear of never being found and the small kernel of hope that begins to grow when she discovers that Dale can hear her bring the strong emotions that a story like this really needs. When intended murder is thrown into the mix, the suspense becomes even more intense.
I spotted the hit and run driver almost the moment he appears but that was okay as it didn’t lessen my interest in what would be the final outcome. That outcome was a little too forgiving in my opinion but acceptable and I still wanted to read the two companion novellas to spend more time with Nicole and Dale.
From the author—
Dale Finnigan is a teenage rebel; he lives for parties, girls and joy riding in stolen cars. In spite of his uptight parents’ constant warnings and lectures, he continues to run wild. His crazy lifestyle is the only way he can live and feel free… Until his reckless behavior takes him down a path where there is no going back.
In this prequel to BETWIXT, find out who Dale Finnigan was before he became known as“scar-face”—the unassuming hero everyone underestimates.
WARNING: This book is intended for mature teens due to coarse language and mature content.
Dale Finnigan was first introduced to readers in Betwixt and we learned there the short version of how he became the young man Nicole gets to really know, the young man behind the terrible physical scars. Before is his story; here, we watch him spiral ever downwards until he reaches that critical point from which there may be no return. I found it interesting that, unlike Nicole, Dale seems to have no real cause for his rebellion other than feeling chafed by rules. I’m quite sure he resents the near-perfection his parents appear to think his sister, Rachel, personifies—no one can compete with that—but that wouldn’t seem to be enough to make him go off the rails.
When Dale learns a family secret, it’s not surprising that he runs right back to his unsavory behavior but it’s not necessarily because of what the secret is so much as the fact that it WAS a secret. So much agony could have been averted if his parents had just been open about their own youthful mistakes. Still, even if Dale had known the truth all along, he still might have turned to a “bad boy” lifestyle if his parents had persisted with their strictness. Many a kid has gone wild because of what they perceive as too heavy a parental hand.
When Dale finally finds himself in a moment of true crisis, he is confronted with a truth he has long denied and must make a choice, to give up or to accept. That choice will define his life.
From the author—
When Dale is rejected from Columbia University in NYC, due to a police record that follows him wherever he goes, his girlfriend, Nicole, soon discovers that love can drive her to do things she never thought possible.
There’s more than one way to say, I love you, and Nicole Tepper is about to prove to Dale that she loves him beyond all common sense.
At last, Nicole and Dale have weathered her life-changing accident and are now a pair although neither has uttered the words, “I love you”. The sexual tension is high but Dale has taken a vow to abstain until he finds The One, the woman he wants to marry. Nicole hopes against hope that will be her but she just can’t be sure. When she finds out he wants to go to a college on the East Coast, leaving her behind, her dreams dwindle but she has to do one last very important thing for Dale.
Dale’s parents have become somewhat more lenient since he was so badly injured but they still seem to be unaware that they have treated him much the way they were treated by their own parents. It’s as if they’ve learned nothing and they expect Dale to make up for their personal losses. This aspect of his family life really took me by surprise since it shows he still hasn’t re-earned their trust even after everything that has happened and his obviously changed behavior since they moved to Big Bear.
Beyond is all about bravery, the kind that’s needed to face your fears, to do the right thing, to sacrifice your dreams so someone else can have theirs.
The Betwixt Series is almost a primer on how parents can fail no matter which road they take. In Nicole’s case, her mom and dad were far too lenient, letting her make so many wrong choices because they thought she needed to find her own way to cope with grief. Dale’s parents took the opposite approach and their constant rules and regulations drove him to an existence with no real point other than rebellion. Both teens are wanderers in life with no confidence in themselves or belief in anything. This, of course, is the focus of much Christian fiction and Melissa Pearl handles it very well without being heavyhanded.
The series also exemplifies the idea that we must hit rock bottom before we can truly heal from our own misguided and self-destructive behavior. Certainly Nicole and Dale are both on the verge of death when they begin to understand what really matters and, in doing so, reach a point at which each just might have a chance to survive with grace.
Finally, it’s a tale of two teens whose lives intertwine and how that ripples out to their families and to the wider community. It’s a tale very well-told and I’ll be reading more by Melissa Pearl.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2013.
About the Author
Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan… not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. “Best. Year. Ever!!” She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November 2011. Since then she has produced four more books and has a YA fantasy trilogy coming out this year. Unknown, Unseen and Unleashed (The Elements Trilogy) out now!
“I am passionate about writing. It stirs a fire in my soul that I never knew I had. I want to be the best writer I can possibly be and transport my readers into another world where they can laugh, cry and fall in love.”.
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