Thin SpaceThin Space by Jody Casella
My rating: 2/5 cats
One StarOne Star

looks like it’s just me out here, not liking this book. which is fine—i don’t like crowds anyway. imma just stretch out my arms and wave ’em around and tell you all the things i didn’t like about this book.

now, some of them are specific to me. i have twin-fear/suspicion, i have hang-ups about people rolling up in public spaces with bare feet, and i find it very difficult to connect emotionally with books. the first one is only half-serious, the second is dead-serious and comes from years of having to explain to people that we are meant to be civilized and the civilized do not run around a bookstore barefoot in manhattan, and the third one is something i wish i could change, but it’s not going to happen. i love reading. i love books. i love them for their characters and stories and structure. but when i read, it’s like all my emotions turn off completely. i am never scared by books, i have cried maybe twice as an adult reader, and i rarely ell oh ell. it’s just how i’m wired. my thinking-bits do not connect to my feeling-bits.

and this book requires you to be able to access your emotions in order to fully appreciate it.

marsh has just lost his twin brother austin in a car accident in which he was driving, but not at fault. even though he wasn’t to blame, he feels crippling survivor’s guilt, and has not been able to readjust to life on his own, without his other half. he drifts through his days, having lost contact with his former friends and his girlfriend, unable to communicate with his parents and focused on a mystical goal: to discover a “thin space” between this world and the afterlife and find his brother in whatever comes next. he learned about the concept of thin spaces from mrs. hansel, an elderly neighbor who has since died. she told him about the ancient celtic belief that whenever a soul passes out of this world in the exact same place where it entered, a thin space forms, allowing a living being to slip through and enter the afterlife. she was convinced that she knew the exact spot where her soul entered, and, near death herself, she promised to create such a space for marsh, dying on that spot, so he could visit his brother.

the only catch is that the thin space can only be entered if the living person is barefoot, so, unable to get into his neighbor’s home after her death, marsh has been walking all over town barefoot ever since the death of his brother, hoping to find another thin space. school, the bus, the streets, the hospital, the football field—in the dead of winter, his feet and legs turning red and numb, marsh has been searching for a way in.

fortunately for his nerve endings, his neighbor’s house is sold to a family with two kids who end up at marsh’s school, one of whom is a pretty girl named maddie he decides to befriend in order to gain access to the thin space mrs. hansel promised to leave for him.

i think a big stumbling block i have with this book is the way the characters behave, particularly maddie. let’s just look at the situation objectively, as an outsider, without any insight into marsh’s thoughts/feelings/inner turmoil/objectives and without that automatic sympathetic connection we feel with the character in whose head we find ourselves when reading. let’s approach the situation as though we are maddie. she is new to the school, trying to put her past behind her, and making an adjustment to a whole new world in terms of surroundings and climate, and dealing with her overprotective big brother and her mother’s rapid-fire romantic life. and the first person she gravitates towards is the troubled dude who wanders around school barefoot, not talking to anyone, except to snap crossly, conversationally distant at best, and getting into physical fights pretty regularly. he is clearly unstable, and it’s also clear her brother has cause to be so overprotective—maddie seems to make poor choices. maddie is a sweet, friendly girl, so why her first instinct is to invite the barefoot kid spouting off about celtic rituals and doorways to the afterlife into her home beggars belief.

and this:“Hey, do you ever wish you could go back in time, do something over?” seems a particularly insensitive question to pose to a boy who she knows has just lost his twin brother. like many of the conversations in this book, it seems to exist not as an example of how people would actually interact, but in order to push the characters to their next episode or to heighten marsh’s distress. his girlfriend stays away from him to give him space until it becomes necessary to the plot for her to come back in. bullies and resentments spring up at psychologically-opportune checkpoints, adults and backstories surface as needed. it’s less organic than orchestrated and it doesn’t do the plausibility any favors.

as far as the twist—it was set up so early on, and so clearly hinted-at, that there was absolutely no element of surprise or reveal when the time eventually came.

i dunno—i am surprised this has such high ratings on here, but it might just be because other readers are able to feel for marsh in a way i myself cannot, and are responding to the grief-narrative like empathetic humans and not a horrible robot.

not bad, just not luminous.

read my book reviews on goodreads

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