I really wanted to like this book. Elizabeth Scott is a skilled young adult author, and I normally enjoy her stories. But every once in a while, there is one that doesn’t quite meet the mark it seems to have been aiming for, and I think this is one of them.
Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott is about Abby, a high school girl who feels invisible when standing next to her older sister, Tess. Perfect Tess was in a car accident on New Year’s Day, landing her in the hospital with severe head trauma and a coma. Abby goes to visit Tess every day, hoping she can find something to wake Tess up. But, Abby’s motivations for waking Tess up are not because she misses her sister.
Abby wants Tess to wake up because Tess’s accident further shows the dichotomy between Tess and Abby. Everywhere Abby goes, people ask her about Tess, wondering how she is doing, and reminiscing about how great Tess was. Abby is fast to remind everyone that Tess is still here, just in a coma, that she isn’t gone yet. Whenever someone mentions Tess to Abby, Abby is further reminded that she is not Tess, is not as great as Tess, and will never be Tess. Frankly, she wants her life to stop being about Tess; when Tess was in college, Abby was allowed to be her normal invisible self. Now, all she is to anyone is Abby, Poor Tess’s Sister.
Abby is built as a tortured character. She is silent, angry. She is quick to make cutting comments to make people stop talking to her. She avoids conflict at all costs, even if it means generating a small conflict, such as being rude to someone, to avoid a larger one. Abby’s self narrative is most of this book, and it is frankly quite depressing. Over and over, Abby repeats that she will never be Tess and how she used to want to be Tess but now she just wants to stop being reminded”¦ it gets old after the first fifty pages. Scott attempted to build a dynamic character here, a character silently holding in her pain, but she failed. Abby is very flat, uninteresting. Readers would be better off looking to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Melinda from Speak to find a fantastic female protagonist dealing with depression and other hard stuff. Where Melinda works through her problems and pain, Abby continues to just think about how horrible and uninteresting she is. While I am well aware that teen girls have problems with self image – I had a good deal of issues regarding my identity – there appears to be no resolution to Abby’s problems, no growth, no maturation. Abby was the same at the end as she was in the beginning.
Like any young adult book, the story would not be complete without a love interest. Eli, a boy working at the hospital where Tess is, comes in to deliver a magazine one day to a nurse in another room, and Abby sees Tess’s eyes move at the sound of Eli’s voice. Abby hatches a plan to get Eli to speak to Tess every day, hoping that the sound of his voice will wake her up. Of course, Eli is model-gorgeous, but he has problems of his own. Abby speaks to Tess about how beautiful Eli is, and how Eli will fall for her if she just wakes up.
Predictably, over the course of the story, Eli and Abby become more and more friendly. But due to a past failed relationship with a boy who was actually in love with Tess, Abby fears liking anyone. Because of this, she forces herself to not like Eli. In fact, she has, in her head, reserved Eli for Tess. This also becomes a major theme throughout the story, Abby telling herself that Eli belongs to Tess, bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t be good enough for Eli to possibly like her, and all of his actions that evidence his interest in her must be wrong. Because of the constant “I can’t be Tess” and “Eli will never love someone like me even though it looks like he likes me, because I am not perfect or Tess” monologues that seems to plague the story, I often found myself skimming through the text to find the plot.
Eli is actually more of a dynamic character than Abby in many ways. The exposition of his problems was handled with much more finesse, and I found his story to be much more interesting. I think a book about Eli would have been more interesting than Abby’s story, honestly. In the end, Eli and Abby end up together, of course. My problem with this story ending is that Abby seems to only be happy because she finds fulfillment in being loved by another person, a man. She seems to base her worth off being liked by a boy, when I think a much better ending would have been Abby realizing that she deserved to be happy, as several of the female characters in the book told her. She also finds herself to be more worthy because she finds some secrets of Tess’s, secrets that make her less perfect than she seemed. Between Tess’s tarnished character and Eli’s adoration, Abby finally feels like she could be happy. But I just think she is happy for the wrong reasons. She is happy because others find her worthy, not because she finds herself worthy. I am sure Scott didn’t mean to create such a character, one that seems so very weak and dependent on the opinions of others, but that is what it seems like. This book could have been much better, Abby could have been much stronger. I truly believe Scott meant for Abby to come across as strong; unfortunately, she did not meet that goal.
In the end, I give Between Here and Forever a 3/5. The plot was interesting with a few good turns, but Abby’s monotonous narratives about how much she hates herself really get old. I feel like the book had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the final result did not meet it.
Between Here and Forever is due to be released May 24, 2011.