Thursday, January 28, 2021

The In-Between blog tour - 1.28.21

Two siblings, a mystery that has more questions than answers, and one big plot twist.  All inside Rebecca K.S. Ansari's sophomore book, The In-Between.

The In-Between
written by Rebecca K.S. Ansari
published by Walden Pond Press

About the book:

A dark, twisty adventure about the forgotten among us and what it means to be seen, from the acclaimed author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly.

Cooper is lost. Ever since his father left their family three years ago, he has become distant from his friends, constantly annoyed by his little sister, Jess, and completely fed up with the pale, creepy rich girl who moved in next door and won’t stop staring at him. So when Cooper learns of an unsolved mystery his sister has discovered online, he welcomes the distraction.

It’s the tale of a deadly train crash that occurred a hundred years ago, in which one young boy among the dead was never identified. The only distinguishing mark on him was a strange insignia on his suit coat, a symbol no one had seen before or since. Jess is fascinated by the mystery of the unknown child— because she’s seen the insignia. It’s the symbol of the jacket of the girl next door.

As they uncover more information— and mounting evidence of the girl’s seemingly impossible connection to the tragedy—Cooper and Jess begin to wonder if a similar disaster could be heading to their hometown.

What you need to know:

This book has one of the best twists in it - when I got to it, I think I might have really said, "no way" out loud!  When a book can throw in a good surprise, it always stands out to me!

I really liked meeting all of the characters.  Cooper is trying so hard to get things right even though he's dealing with his own pain.  His father has left his family to start a new one and Cooper hasn't let go of that pain.  He feels like he needs to be the man of the house, but really, he just wants to be a kid.  He has to help his younger sister, Jess, with her diabetes.  That responsibility is just another thing on his plate.  Jess is a good sister, nagging at times, but she is the younger sister, after all!  Their mom is trying to keep their family stay afloat and often works more hours than she is at home.  On top of everything that is going on at home, Cooper is also having some issues with his best friend, Zack.  Even though Zack tries to still talk with him, Cooper keeps trying to freeze Zack out.  But then Cooper meets the new kid at school, Gus.  Gus has his own family issues - he's been sent to live with his grandmother (the neighborhood scary lady) while his parents work on their own issues.  Cooper is more comfortable with Gus than anyone else, and they strike up a friendship.  The last character we know about is the strange girl across the alley.  Her family has renovated a very old home and she's always sitting outside, sitting on a swing.  Never says anything, just stares.  She doesn't go to their school because she is always seen with a blazer that has an insignia on it, which makes Cooper think she attends a private school.  

The first third of the book is spent learning about the characters and their backgrounds and about a potential mystery that connects the mysterious girl to a deadly train crash.  Jess has found an old, unsolved mystery on the internet of a train crash that had an unidentified victim, a school-aged child.  Accompanying the article is a half drawn illustration of an insignia that had been on the child's school blazer.  Jess realizes that the same insignia is on the blazer of the girl across the alley.  If they find out what school it is, there is a chance they can solve the mystery.  It starts to get more interesting when they discover another accident with an unknown child victim, again wearing the insignia.  How do these things connect?  And how do they connect with their mysterious neighbor?

The first 100 pages or so build up the background of the characters and the details of the mystery.  This part moves much slower than the rest of the book.  If you can keep students reading through the slower beginning, I promise, it gets harder to put the book down.

Eventually, Cooper finally talks to the girl and finds out her name is Elena.  When it really gets strange (and when it finally starts picking up) is when he enters her house.  First of all, the beautifully renovated house is completely dark, abandoned, and in horrible shape on the inside.  It looks like no one has lived inside for many years.  Inside the house, Cooper finds letters written on notebook paper.  He grabs one to bring home, but not before he cuts his finger on broken glass.  Once he gets home, his mom admonishes him for being inside a home that has been abandoned for this long.  She is shocked to hear someone is actually living inside of it.  At this point, Cooper and Jess realize that while they see a completely refurbished house on the outside, their mom sees the house as it had been - run down and abandoned.  

This is where the book really picks up pace because there are so many unanswered questions:
  • who is Elena?
  • why is she living in an abandoned house?
  • why can only Cooper and Jess and Gus see the refurbished house and Elena?
  • why is the insignia on her jacket the same as the one as the unidentified victims?  What is the link?
  • what will happen with Cooper's angry feelings towards their father?  Will their father return?
As always, as you continue to read, we eventually get answers and see how things are put together.  Of course, things are not what they seem to be.  They mystery grows for awhile and Cooper learns things about Elena and why she is there and about her home.  The more Cooper learns, the more he comes to realize that there is a reason why Elena is there and it involves the three people that can see her - Cooper, Jess, and Gus.  And it doesn't appear that she's there for a good reason.  It ends up being a race against time to put the pieces of the mystery together.

If you can get through the first 100 pages, I promise you'll have a page turner on your hands, especially the last 60 pages of the book.  I couldn't put it down once I had an understanding of what was going to happen.  I loved how Ansari put everything together in a way that I never saw coming.  

It's a longer book (over 300 pages - not as long as her The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly) so I would suggest 4th grade readers with a strong reading stamina - 7th grade readers will enjoy this one.  The cover is fun to go back and look at after most of the book is read as it is full of details from the story.

Ansari's stories continue to engage me and I will be looking for more from her in the future!

Don't just take my word for it!  Praise for The In-Between:

More about author Rebecca K.S. Ansari:
Photo credit: Pixel Dust
Rebecca lives in a very loud house in Minneapolis with her husband, four boys, and her seriously massive pets. After twelve years as an ER doctor, she shed her scrubs to write magical and mysterious worlds for middle-grade readers. She is drawn to any story that evokes, "Please, Mom! Just one more chapter!" and she strives to craft the same. Rebecca was the winner of the Minnesota SCBWI Mentorship for 2015. When she isn't writing, you can find her biking, cooking or escaping "up north" with family, friends, and a stack of good books.

Stop by the other legs of the tour to find out more about this intriguing story!

Blog Tour 1/27-2/2

January 27 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius

January 28 Michele Knott @knott_michele

January 29 Writer's Rumpus @writersrumpus

January 30 Maria's Melange @mariaselke

February 1 StoryMamas @storymamas

                  Charlotte's Library @charlotteslibrary

February 2 A Library Mama @alibrarymama

          Iowa Amber Reads @iowaamberreads

Tonight - Thursday, January 28th - is the virtual book release party.  Hosted by Red Balloon Books in St. Paul, MN, join Rebecca in conversation with fellow author, Anne Ursu, from 6-7pm CST.  Register for this free event here:

1 comment:

  1. I love reading mysteries and this one sounds like it will keep me reading way past my bedtime.