|BETWEEN HERE AND FOREVER|
Abby is angry. There's no other way to put it; she's mad that Tess is in a coma, mad that people have started talking about her in the past tense, and mad that she's constantly reminded how different the two sisters are. Tess is gorgeous, perfect, and smart. Guys adore her, follow her around just for the chance to be near her. Abby, on the other hand, having once fell for a guy who wanted her sister instead, is convinced that she's nothing. She's short, twiggy, and ugly. If others try to tell her differently, she cuts them off, insulting herself before others can and taking even their compliments as criticisms. Abby's incredibly negative view of herself bothered me, but I was able to let it be because there's just so much else in this novel that rang true. Abby's feelings toward Tess are complicated -- she insists her feelings and actions aren't noble, but the fact is that she's spending every afternoon with her comatose sister, jumping at the slightest movement, so ready for her to wake up. There's a love she has for her sister that's very apparent, though she refuses to admit it.
However, as the story evolves so does Abby. She goes from being a miserable, constantly-complaining character who seems to hate herself to being a sad girl who finally admits she deserves to be happy. A lot of this change is due to her friendship with Eli, the "perfect boy" she found for her sister who ends up having plenty of problems of his own. While I at first pegged Eli and Abby's relationship as the too-common case of a perfect boy saving a broken girl, it ends up being much more real and complex than this. Eli is also broken. The relationship they have is messy and confusing and slow-building, but also authentically real with an incredible emotional heart. It's Eli who helps Abby to see that her sister isn't the all-powerful girl she considers her and helps her appreciate that though Abby has some problems, so does everybody else, and she's allowed to want something to herself. The way this relationship was written, especially in regards to Abby's past mistakes, was brilliant. Absolutely wonderful. It was this that went a long way towards my love of the novel and of these characters -- yes, even Abby.
The relationship dynamics were very interesting in the rest of the book as well; Abby's closest friend is her sister's ex-best-friend, a girl named Claire that Tess shunned after Claire got pregnant in high school. The friendship between Abby and Claire is an interesting one, especially as the story goes on and it become obvious that Abby didn't know her sister as well as she always thought she did. For the most part, Tess is portrayed as your typical All-American popular girl -- smart, pretty, tons of boyfriends, an amazing best friend. But there are hints of something darker inside of her, short periods of time where Abby can remember Tess turning on her or seeming to shun the rest of the world, not eating, not even sleeping. These hints seem to be building to something larger, and they do, but the revelation that at first makes perfect sense seems to become more convoluted and melodramatic in the book's conclusion. There are plot points (one in particular that involves Claire's baby) that, while they technically fit into the story, seem more melodramatic than is needed and more suited to a twist in a soap opera than a plot point in a well-constructed novel. It's at this point that the book lost quite a bit of its magic for me as the story seems to devolve into secrets about Tess' life that seem overly dramatic and end with the book feeling a bit overstuffed.
I liked this book, I loved this book, and then I was disappointed by this book. The story, characters, and so-authentically-hestitant voice of Abby are all wonderful, but the ending took away some of the joy for me. It didn't ruin the book, not by a long shot, but it did leave me with a slightly bitter feeling when this slow-moving and real-feeling story became convoluted by what felt like melodrama.