Title: The In-Between
Author: Rebecca K. S. Ansari
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery/Thriller
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Date Published: January 26, 2021
You can find it here: Amazon, Bookshop.org
After his father abandons his family, Cooper is struggling. Pulling away from his friends, taking his anger out on his once close sister, and keeping his mom at a distance. He is angry, he is hurt, and the new girl across the street is driving him crazy with her constant staring.
When his sister Jess stumbles across a 100-year-old mystery of a boy who died in a train accident but was never identified – he doesn’t think much about it. Until he discovers that the odd crest on the boys coat matches the crest on the girl next door’s sweater. Launching himself into this investigation with Jess is a welcome distraction, but as they uncover more information they realize this strange girl might have a strong connection to this mystery and many other tragic, unsolved mysteries over the last century. What’s worse, is they might be in danger themselves …
This book was magical perfection — which makes it almost harder to review because there isn’t a single thing I would change. Rebecca K.S. Ansari writes with stunning fluidity and great respect for her audience – never over explaining, simplifying, or even worse, forcing a tone of narrative that adults “think” kids speak like … one of my greatest middle grade pet peeves.
The characters in this little novel are so alive and vividly real, bursting with personality, emotion and grit. From Cooper’s very painful processing of the conflicted emotions following his father’s abandonment to his sister Jess’ struggle with diabetes that never defines or limits her spirit, I cared deeply for these characters, rooting for them and tearing up on numerous occasions as they grew.
Even more exceptional is how smoothly the magical realism blends with the contemporary mystery atmosphere – a feat I find can be clunky in many novels. Because the story is so heavily grounded with the emotional honesty of the contemporary plot line, the magical realism folds in seamlessly, adding great energy to the whole.
This is joyous achievement of middle grade that discusses the importance of being seen and being heard, hits all the boxes for me: complexity, honesty, difficult topics, respect for the audience, incredible heart and wee bit of spookiness. Truly one of my favourite middle grades I’ve read that I, as an adult, gained much perspective on my own childhood. I won’t forget this one.
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