So this review is very long overdue.
First of all, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’m doing less reviews than I used to. Well, it comes down to this: I don’t like giving negative reviews on the blog. For one thing, I’m afraid of bad review karma. For another thing, most of the negative things I’d say about a book come down to personal preference. For another, whenever I’ve criticized a book, later I’ve re-read my criticism and felt kind of bad about it. Like I publicly dissed a good person. This probably has to do with the fact that I’m a writer too! And with the fact that I LOVE criticism–before I’ve completed and posted something, so that I can make revisions as needed. But I really hate criticism after something is in the public view, when it’s too late to change it.
I realize that this kind of criticism is inevitable when I put my writing in the public eye, and I’m willing to accept it as one of the hazards of the job. But I’m uncomfortable participating in it.
Which then of course leads to another dilemma: do I only state the positive things about the books I read? Because almost every book I read has something worth liking in it, even if i don’t like it all that much. But THEN I might lead someone to believe a book was great when really it was only so-so.
Finally I decided that from now on I’m only going to post reviews of books I really, really love and think a lot of other people will love too. (There are books I adore that I know most people would not, because sometimes what makes me love a book is obscure and strange and specific to me.) This way you can trust me. If you see a book on my blog, you know it is recommended reading. It even says so in the title of the post.
Anyway! On with the review.
I received an ARC of Brenna Yovanoff’s The Space Betweenages ago, thanks to a giveaway from the lovely and talented Jenny of The Party Pony. (And I’m not just saying that because she gave me books. I thought she was lovely and talented long before I won the ARC.) I adored Yovanoff’s debut effort, The Replacement, and was breathlessly awaiting her next offering.
And oh let me tell you . . . I was not disappointed.
Here, then, is the obligatory blurb:
Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?
Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped – and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie’s whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.
This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanoff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.
One of the reasons I waited so long to write this review is that I find it hard to talk about this book without sounding like an idiot. This is always the case with books that take my breath away. In this case, I literally lost my breath a few times reading it. I can’t tell you where, though, because that would ruin it for you.
So how to gush about this book without spoiling too much? Here are the things I can talk about without giving anything critical away:
The Cover. The stunning, stunning cover. Just gaze upon its gorgeousness for a moment! We all know the cliche about books and covers and judging, but I promise this book lives up to its cover. That cover . . . I want to frame it and hang it above my writing desk. So. Awesome.
Emotions. The characters in this novel, in the hands of a different author, would be unbearably emo. But somehow Yovanoff expresses their sorrow and loneliness and longing with such compassion that instead of wanting to smack them for feeling sorry for themselves, I want to make them a cup of tea and give them a hug and tell them everything will be all right. As with The Replacement, reading The Space Between left me in the end with an overwhelming sense of tenderness. I think tenderness is missing from our culture in general, so finding it here in a story about demons and fallen angels is awesome.
The Unexpected. When I say I lost my breath a few times? Yeah. There were some moments in The Space Between when I gasped and said things out loud like “Oh fuuuuuuuck.” The thing is, I don’t think the plot is particularly twisty or hard to follow. But when the story delivers a surprise, it’s pretty much a sucker punch. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of brutality with the aforementioned tenderness, I don’t know . . . but it’s been a while since I was so involved in a story that unpleasant surprises knocked me over this way. And nothing I’ve read since has satisfied quite as much.
Lovely Prose. I just love the way Yovanoff’s writing SOUNDS. In an interview on Amazon (scroll down the product description to read it in the Editorial Reviews section), she explains her writing process like this:
It’s sort of like I hear the story in my head, but not clearly enough to transcribe it verbatim, which means at any given time I only know about half on a sentence, and the rest is just a sound. So, I write down the parts I’m sure of and leave the other parts blank. Only to mark the blank parts so I remember to go back and fill them in, I do like this: ,,,, So, any given sentence in a draft could look like, “With,,,, he ,,,,, to the,,,,,,,and,,,,,.” It is basically the Mad Libs of drafting.
I hope she keeps writing this way because the result is really beautiful. I mean. “In Hell, we tell our stories on the surface of things. The histories are forged a piece at a time, hammered on posts and pillars, pounded into the tiled streets.” Yum.
The Space Between will be available on November 15 of this year. Get your hands on it as soon as you can. And as always, if you want to thank me for recommending it to you by sending me presents, I’m happy to accept.