The Girl in Between

The Girl in Between

The Girl in Between was written by Laekan Zea Kemp and first published in 2014. It is a paranormal romance story that focuses on a teenager with a debilitating sleep disorder. The novel forms the first part of The Girl in Between series and is followed by The Boy in her Dreams (2014) and The Children of the Moon (2015). A fourth book, provisionally titled The Daughter of the Night, has been announced but at the time of writing no release date has been set.

Bryn is intelligent and creative and longs to have the same freedom as her classmates, yet she knows that it will never be possible. She suffers from Klein-Levin Syndrome (KLS), a terrible disorder that leaves her unconscious for weeks at a time. The attacks are random and have alienated her from her friends and put a terrible strain on her family.

However, unlike most KLS patients, Bryn is afflicted with vivid dreams. Whenever she suffers an episode she finds herself in an ever changing word built from her own memories. This dream world has always been a safe haven for her but that changers when a mysterious boy appears, seemingly unaware of who he is or how he got there.

Suddenly Bryn’s grasp on reality has been shaken. She can’t see how it could be possible for another person to share her dream but the boy seems to be unable to leave. To make things worse, her condition is becoming increasingly unstable. A shadowy being haunts her waking hours and seems to want to drag her back into her dreams. Will Bryn figure out how the boy and the shadow are connected before she falls into an irreversible coma?

The Girl in Between is a strange story and I’m of two minds about its effectiveness. To start with the positive, it is a hauntingly beautiful tale. While the prose can be a little too purple at times, it is evocative and does help to emphasise the dreamlike quality of Bryn’s life. It reminded me a little of the movie Inception with its endlessly changing dreamscape. One moment, Bryn could be walking across a beach but then the world shifts seamlessly around her to a funfair or a field of sunflowers. The scenery becomes like a patchwork quilt, formed of tiny things that are important to Bryn.

The smooth way that the novel is written really does help to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. While the division between Bryn’s dreams and waking hours is clear at first, it slowly dissolves as the story progresses. As her condition worsens, she suffers vivid hallucinations during her waking hours and things that she has never experienced begin to pop up in the dream world. It’s eerie and effective, trapping the reader between states in the same way that Bryn is herself.

However, my biggest issue with the novel was its pacing. Although it’s not an overly long story, The Girl in Between really did drag. The overly poetic narrative hampered the prose in this regard as it meant that I never once felt afraid for Bryn. The shadow being wasn’t threatening (although it really should have been) because Bryn’s voice never relayed a sense that she was especially worried. She instead worried herself more over things that seemed mundane in comparison, such as her relationship with Drew. Personally, if I was being relentlessly pursued by a silent, faceless entity I think that I’d be more concerned about that than avoiding my ex-boyfriend.

When the story did start to pick up (around 80% of the way through the eBook), it felt like too little too late. The final chapters are stuffed with teasers concerning Dr Banz’s true intentions and Roman’s identity but these were thrown in rather than being slowly developed throughout the story. The change is jarring as, following the sedate pace of the early novel, the climax comes racing at the reader at a hundred miles per hour.

To make matters worse, the novel never actually explained anything. The reader never discovers the true nature of the shadow or even learns why Roman appears in Bryn’s dreams (although Dr Banz hints that this is very important). The book just cuts off on a horribly abrupt cliff hanger which leaves everything up in the air. There isn’t really any justification for this, it’s purely in there to make the reader buy the next book. You know how I feel about these. A good book doesn’t need a cliffhanger – a reader will want to keep reading regardless. If it wasn’t for the fact that I got this novel for free, I’d have been left feeling rather short-changed!

In terms of character, the results were also quite varied. While Bryn is generally sympathetic, she was also very repetitive. A lot of her narrative is taken up by her wishing that she was normal (until she has a very sudden change of heart late in the story). I also personally found her to be a bit unrelatable at times, as she tended to speak about other teens as though they were inferior to her. This is especially noticeable late in the story as she comments about how she things that Dani’s problems seem trivial compared to her own. While this may be true in the greater scheme of things, Dani is one of the few people to stand by Bryn without question. You’d think that she’d be grateful of that.

Roman is also pretty bland for the most part, not really becoming interesting until the last couple of chapters. My biggest issue with him was that his narrative voice was almost identical to Bryn’s and so I often became confused as to who was narrating the chapters (especially as Roman is not named until halfway through the novel and so his early chapters aren’t even headed with his name). The twist regarding Roman’s condition felt a little too well signposted and I felt that he didn’t have enough to do in the story as he spent most of it confined in Bryn’s dream world. He reminded me a lot of Hayko from The Space in Between, only he was far more passive and less central to the plot.

By far the most interesting characters in the novel were in the background. A lot of the story is taken up by showing how Bryn’s condition affects those who surround her. This is especially clear in her strained relationships with her mother and Drew, both of whom try to control her in different ways. Yet I did still feel that more detail needed to be given to flesh out these characters, as they did fade away for large stretches of the story. Bryn’s grandmother, in particular, was a strange character. She seemed to know a lot about the story’s supernatural aspects, yet the story never focused on this and so her only impact on the plot took the form of the occasional cryptic comment.

All in all, my opinion regarding this story’s effectiveness is really split. I liked the concept and was left curious by the ending but on the whole I found the story to be too slow burning and it did leave far too much unexplained. As I previously mentioned, the first eBook is currently free on Amazon and so I’d advise you to give it a try if you’re in any way curious. I will probably return to this series in a future review but I’m not in any real hurry to do so any time soon.

The Girl in Between can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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