Title: Between the Lives
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Provided by publishers via NetGalley
My rating: 4 / 5
The perfect life or the perfect love. You choose.
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 that bring her dangerously close to the life she's always wanted. But if she can only have one life, which is the one she'll choose?
A compelling psychological thriller about a girl who lives two parallel lives - this is Sliding Doors for the YA audience.
-- As seen on Goodreads
*I received a copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley, with thanks to Hatchett Children’s Books/Orchard Books, in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.*
“I am a liar. Not compulsive. Simply required. I am two people.”
Sabine is very different from most people: she has two lives. She lives each day twice, taking up the role required of her in both her existences. She has two sets of family and two sets of friends, two sets of pressures, and two sets of expectations to meet. Each day at midnight, without fail, she switches from one life to the other, and they couldn’t be more different. Her Roxbury life is as hard as it gets, with parents who constantly demand she do more than she can possibly give. The one positive Sabine has had in her Roxbury life is her little sister, Maddie. Her Wellesley life is picture perfect. She is popular; has the perfect relationship; has the perfect friends and perfect family – the exception being her two older brothers.
But something changes. She breaks her arm in her Roxbury life. What happens to her physically in one life also happens to her in the other. Except this time, for the first time in her eighteen years, she doesn’t wake up with a broken arm in her Wellesley life. For the first time, she realises she could have a choice. She could choose to have the one thing she always wanted: only one life. The choice seems simple, until she meets Ethan…
Between the Lives is one of those books that surprised me. When I started reading, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like it very much. I had settled into a “this is going to be a good, but not great read” mentality, and I know that’s not fair at all. Around 25 – 30% in and when all the action kicks off, my goodness, I loved it! From then on, the book became so interesting and absorbing.
A lot happens in a short space of time, and I did feel a bit overwhelmed in the first few chapters. I didn’t think I was empathising with or connecting with the characters at the same pace as the story was progressing. I had a feeling something was going to happen, and I could see it coming, but the way it happens and is described was so good!
I found it difficult to connect with Sabine at some points in the book. Having two lives immediately means two personalities, but I actually felt she had three: the Roxbury Sabine, the Wellesley Sabine, and the real Sabine. I could see her perspective easily, and I could see why she made certain choices at the beginning even though I mightn’t have agreed with some of the things she did. Living two lives simultaneously with very minimal control would have such a huge impact on a person and then to be given the opportunity to actually take control and do what you want to do would be intoxicating to anyone in the situation.
Ethan was one of the main reasons I loved Between the Lives. Initially it seemed he was going to be yet another YA male copy to blend in with the rest, but thankfully he came into his own character and I ended up really liking him. I could see his intentions to keep Sabine away from more heartache – even though Sabine couldn’t for some reason - and in my opinion, he was the most interesting character in the book. I could sense the book was building up to a pretty intense ending, and I didn’t expect to become so emotional. My emotions blindsided me even though I had a pretty good idea what would happen, and it was then I realised I cared for the characters so much more than I first realised.
I was left with some unanswered questions that I expecting an answer to, and I guess that would be my main negative. I was hoping to find out a bit more on the two lives concept. It’s hinted at that everyone has two lives, but Sabine seems to be the only one who remembers. She mentions “glitches” a couple of times at the beginning, but that thread of the story faded away and I didn’t feel it was resolved. Is she the glitch? I have no idea!
Apart from this, I really enjoyed Between the Lives and I connected with the characters more than I realised initially. It’s not an unapproachable Fantasy/Sci-Fi book: it has quite a Contemporary feel to it, so I think it could be good for both people looking to branch into the Fantasy genre, and for Fantasy fans alike. I’ll definitely be reading more books by this author in the future.