The first Alyssa Sheinmel book I read was Faceless, after I won it in a competition. I really enjoyed it, so I told myself I was going to get more books by the same author, as she has four or five others.
So that’s what I did – I found The Beautiful Between, her first book, and started there. Interestingly, that’s published as Alyssa B Sheinmel, whereas Faceless was just Alyssa Sheinmel. I wonder what changed in between?
If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications—and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly’s few friends think that her parents are divorced—but they’re not. Connelly’s father died when she was two, and she doesn’t know how.
If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn’t be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair’s friendship grows, Connelly learns that it’s the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful.
This lovely and memorable debut by Alyssa B. Sheinmel contains many of the hallmark themes found in young adult literature—friendship, coming of age, finding a place to belong, and overcoming the death of a loved one. Emotionally moving from start to finish, The Beautiful Between introduces a strong new voice to the genre, a voice with a long future ahead of it
The Beautiful Between is a lovely premise – isolated teenager, learning truths, handsome boy, growing friendship, secrets and loss. It had all the ingredients to be a book I really loved. And I did like it – don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike it at all, and I finished it within 24 hours, which is generally a good sign. That said, though, it was also very short – less than 200 pages – which may have had something to do with it. I just didn’t love this book, and I felt like I could have. Sheinmel definitely can write books that I love – Faceless demonstrates that – but this isn’t one of them.
Connelly isn’t an unpleasant character, but she’s very unsympathetic. I found it very hard to connect with her and empathise with her when she was selfish . I didn’t have enough good feelings for her to justify her bad behaviour, so I ended up annoyed with her as a character, which I don’t think is how she was meant to be portrayed.
I also thought that the fairytale metaphor in the book was overblown and overplayed – it worked in the beginning, but it wasn’t interwoven in a way which made me love it by the end.
A few scenes in the book were very moving, and I will admit to crying through some pivotal scenes at the end, but this book is very much a debut. It’s a good book, and Alyssa Sheinmel is clearly a good author, but Faceless is a lot better. I don’t think, if I had read this book first, I would have gone looking for her later ones.
This is a good book, but not a great book, and I would very quickly recommend Faceless over this one. However, it’s still enough that I’ll go looking to read other Alyssa Sheinmel books, because she’s clearly a very talented writer.