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The Southern Minstrel
on Nov. 07, 2011 :
When I began reading, The Space Between, I immediately thought, Oh Lord, another teenager whining about not fitting in with the “in” crowd. Then I kept reading and felt really stupid for pre-judging the latest novel by Alexandra Sokoloff.
The book is a combination of the television show, Fringe, and the eighties classic, Nightmare on Elm Street, led by a protagonist much like the main character in the Twilight series. But— I like Sokoloff’s protagonist: she’s smart and gutsy and smart. The Space Between stands firmly on its own without a need to categorize or compare to other shows or movies. My feeble mind just did so as I read the book.
The young adult novel is set in San Gorgonio, California, which is a base town suffering from economic depression. The town is held prisoner by heat and smog during the summer and only gets relief during the fall by the Santa Anas winds that comes off the mountains that surround the town. Anna, the protagonist, describes it as “those hot, dry Santa Anas that come through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch” (4). This is foreshadowing if I’ve ever seen it.
Anna Sullivan is a teenager attending San Gorgonio High School. Her mother disappears when Anna is little. Her daddy is a Gulf War veteran suffering from mental illness and uses alcohol as life support. Anna deals with clutter inside of her house and inside of her head, but she manages to deal with it because she’s smart and gutsy and smart. Anna has recurring nightmares of a massacre at SGHS: blood, guts, and gore done at the hands of a shadowy figure who pities no one. Unfortunately or fortunately, things begin to cross between her dreams and her reality.
Anna begins realizing that other kids at her school are sharing the same dream space. Anna frantically tries to decipher clues from her dreams to prevent the massacre from happening in real life. Oh, and did I mention that she’s in love with a jock. The horror. At this point, there’s no real news and no new plot, but this is when I became enthralled with the book.
Sokoloff mixes mathematical statistics, quantum physics, and psychological elements with a school massacre. She writes the book leading a bread-crumb trail of information enticing readers to engage with the characters and to get lost in the plot. After a while, you forget that Anna is a been-there-done-that character and you begin to see how smart and gutsy and smart she is. Readers begin to root for her.
Sokoloff, whose writings have earned her a Bram Stoker award and an Anthony award for Best First Novel, touches on every social issue known to teenagers: drugs, sex, homosexuality, sexual predators, alcoholism, social outcasts, mental illness, jocks, popularity, love, dysfunctional homes, and much more. She does it without making it the main theme of the book. She gives a nod in its direction without weighing down the plot with heavy prose. A school massacre is heavy enough.
As I read the book, I was under the impression that Sokoloff is offering much more to the reader than what you get from just one reading. I’ll read it many times, and I won’t be surprised if I discover more doors leading to plots or symbols missed in the first reading. Where is Anna’s mother? How does her dad play into things? What’s behind door number two? Read the book to understand the significance behind the doors.
Anna finds the courage that she needs and the love that she wants. But then there’s the door, which sort of changes things; another puzzle, another mystery. In the end, she puts her big-girl panties on, kicks butt, and takes names. Puzzles begin to unravel; mysteries begin to make sense. But each one leads to more.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)