Friday, May 21, 2010

New Book: The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

The Beautiful Between

The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel was released earlier this month but I am starting to catch up with my posts so here it is.  I haven't read it and I'm not sure how overt the fairy tale references are, but since the description uses Rapunzel and I've seen other allusions in the review at MTV, I thought it would fit here just fine.

Book description from the publisher:

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.
From 'The Beautiful Between' Book Report: Judy Blume Angst In A 'Gossip Girl' by Sabrina Rojas Weiss:

In her day job at Random House, Alyssa Sheinmel spends a lot of time thinking about what's hot in children's and young-adult fiction. Maybe that's why for her debut novel, she avoided writing a trendy vampire story or a clique-y series. Instead, "The Beautiful Between," which came out on May 10, is a melancholy tale about a girl who may inhabit the same Upper East Side New York as the "Gossip Girl" set, but whose inner life is a whole lot deeper than Serena's or Blair's.

"My husband's big joke is that if only I could write a book with vampires in it, we would be rich," Sheinmel told us. "I don't follow trends as a reader or a writer. I tend to write just what I want to tell."

Connelly Sternin has lived alone with her emotionally distant mother since her father died when she was 2, and to cope with her desolation, she relates everything to fairy tales in her mind. Though she's no poor Cinderella at her fancy prep school, she is pretty shocked when the school's Prince Charming, Jeremy Cole, decides to befriend her. But he's not sweeping her off her feet, and he's not just using her for her brains as they study physics and SAT vocab together. He's looking for someone who understands what he's going through as his little sister suffers from leukemia.

Though Sheinmel said her biggest literary influence was "the fairy tales that I grew up with," the story of how Connelly and Jeremy's friendship thrives in the shadow of tragedy calls to mind Judy Blume's classic YA stories of the '80s.
An excerpt from the book is available on its Amazon page.  You can also read more about the author at her website: where there is also an excerpt.

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