Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: The Space Between Us


The Space Between UsAuthor: Jessica Martinez
Release date: October 16th 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Hardcover, 400 pages
Buy: The Book Depository


I bought my copy of The Space Between Us right on the release date, October 16th 2012, and then spent almost three months staring at it longingly, too much of a coward to actually read it. I’d been almost afraid of it. Well, not almost, I was honestly scared– considering how much I loved Virtuosity, Martinez’s debut novel, my expectations were pretty high, and I knew there was much room for disappointment.
It’s possible that I’m being vastly unfair by comparing the Space Between Us with Virtuosity, but in my own defense, Martinez was the one who set the bar so high. I don’t read contemporary that often, not if I can avoid it (which I usually can), and there aren’t many contemporary titles that left a lasting mark on me, but Virtuosity is one of them. The honesty of it all, the psychological insight, convinced me that Martinez is a skilled storyteller. Alas, I was headed straight for disappointment.

Teen pregnancy is never easy, but when your father is a pastor and you end up being severely punished for it even though you’re not the one who’s actually pregnant… well, hard doesn’t even begin to describe it. That’s Amelia’s life in a nutshell. She is a high school senior, captain of the female hockey team, responsible, serious and very restrained. Or at least she was, until her younger sister Charly, a party person and an attention-seeker, got pregnant. Instead of finishing her senior year and going to Columbia as she’d planned, Amelia ends up moving to Canada for six months to help cover up her sister’s shameful secret. Her achievements mean nothing – what Charly needs, Charly always gets, and this time she needs Amelia to sacrifice everything that matters to her.

I wish I were one of those people who can like a book even though they don’t like any of the characters. I am not. Being in Amelia’s head was, quite frankly, a horrifying experience. If there was ever a more unlikable character, I must have blocked it out of my memory because I simply can’t remember it now. But here are a few facts about our narrator: she is utterly incapable of standing up for herself when it matters and she’s painfully aware of it, so to compensate, she takes her issues out on everyone else, especially people who are actually nice to her. She thinks she’s better/ smarter/ more deserving than anyone around her, and it’s not an opinion she ever keeps to herself. She is suspicious, rude to nice people and always ready to lash out at the slightest provocation… or even without one. I have yet to stumble upon a more close-minded, judgmental character. I would have preferred a true anti-heroine instead of this accomplished, yet utterly unlikable protagonist.

Keeping all of it in mind, it stands to reason that she’s too self-absorbed to fall in love, at least in a way that would convince the readers and have them rooting for her romance. And again the comparison is inevitable; Ezra is a decent love interest, nicely fleshed-out, but Jeremy King he is not. And while I’m being unfair, Jeremy and Carmen had so much chemistry between them that’s simply not there between Amelia and Ezra, although they had a few lovely moments. Again, Amelia is too self-centered to every truly be in a relationship and as hard as Martinez tried to redeem her (or have her redeem herself) towards the end, in my opinion, it was too little, too late.

I do think that contemporary fans might find something more in Jessica Martinez’s sophomore novel. It is not my genre of choice and I doubt it ever will be, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt.


22 comments:

  1. Hm... still sounds interesting, but I'm not huge on the contemp genre either. Usually it has to involve some sort of creative activity... like painting or music. So, this one isn't for me. However, you have me wanting to read Virtuosity! :)

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  2. You know, it really is hard to pick up that second book when you *loved* the first book (Virtuosity rocked!) so I understand the put-it-on-the-shelf-and-stare-at-it impulse. Done it many times. Sucks that Amelia's such an unlikeable character. Sometimes I can move past that but 95% of the time, it tanks the book for me, too.

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  3. I'm a bit hesitant to pick this one up because of your lack of interest in the characters. It's very, very rare that I can like a book where I despise the characters but something else has to click for me (i.e. themes, story's structure) to hold my interest. So I think I'm going to skip this one for now.

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  4. Uh oh Maja, I can tell based on your review that I will not like Amelia at all! When reading your summary of what happens I was all prepared to like her and felt bad that she had to give up everything to cover up her sister's secret, but I don't deal well with characters who have a high opinion of themselves and see fit to spread it far and wide. I also don't deal well with characters who don't, at least at some point in the story, stand up for themselves. I think I'll be passing on this one!

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  5. I have this book just sitting on my shelf waiting for me to read it but I'm a little scared to read it as well. I haven't read any of the authors other books but I've read a lot of mixed reviews about this book. I'm sorry it didn't live up to her other book but sometimes it happens. Thanks for the honest review!
    World of Books

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  6. LOL @ "Being in Amelia’s head was, quite frankly, a horrifying experience" I almost spit my coffee. I had seen your rating on Goodreads so I knew you didn't like his one. I actually have seen a few other similar reviews so you're not alone. I can't get into a book where I don't like the characters. Not even one bit. Ok well, I do like books where characters are not what you'd call likeable but they're MEANT to be--like broken individuals (ex Pushing the Limits). But not if it's due to the lack of intelligence or a kind of self absorbed/self importance. I very much doubt I would enjoy this one at all. Thanks for taking one for the team! ;)

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  7. I know I am with you on not liking the books if I don't like the characters. You and I are not big contemporary fans and we always seem to struggle with them. Especially when they are so dramatic. Well it is a bummer that you spent money on this and it fell flat for you!

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  8. It's such a shame you didn't enjoy this despite loving Virtuosity so much... I still actually need to get Virtuosity off my TBR pile and devoured!

    The summary you provided us makes it seem like this book would be really interesting... I'm eager to see how Amelia covers for her sister! But what a disappointment that Amelia's perspective was such a terrible experience... she sounds rather self-centred and I hate MCs who are self-absorbed... they're not great to read about.

    I probably will be shying away from this one and definitely picking up my copy of Virtuosity! Thanks for the honest review, Maja!

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  9. Too bad you didn't care for this one, Maja! Contemporary is definitely my genre of choice, but based on the way you describe Amelia, I think even I would have a hard time being inside her head. I don't have much tolerance for women in books who can't stand up for themselves--even if only in small ways. I haven't red Virtuosity either, so I don't know how I feel about the author's writing or storytelling, but I can say that I do like the outward premise for this book. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be executed in a way that I'll enjoy.

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  10. It really is such a shame that this novel proved to be a disappointment. I feel like that seems to be the case with debut authors I love, somehow, but after seeing how psychologically successful Virtuosity was, I really thought Martinez could pull this off. Anyway, thanks for saving me a disappointing read, Maja, and beautiful review as always!(:

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  11. It is hard for me to get into a book without liking the characters as well. Sorry you didn't enjoy more!
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  12. I think my initial high hopes that I had for Martinez sophomore book was largely due to my love for Virtuosity, I hate that you weren't able to love this book as much. I agree with you though when characters start digging their own grave and doing nothing about it, it frustrates me to no end. A character connection I see as an important part of my reading process, and if that isn't possible, the book usually goes downhill for me, so I completely understand your problems that you had with this book hun! Thanks for the heads up! :)

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  13. I think I'll be staying away from this book. I don't do contemporary that much anyway and the character indeed sounds horrific!

    I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy this novel as much. Hope you find a better contemporary next time.

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  14. Oh crud. I'm with you, I LOVED Virtuosity and I've been afraid to read this one. I do have it but I've been afraid of having too high of expectations and I'm really glad I read your review. Now when I do read it (one day) I'll have very low expectations and may like it more. Sorry it was disappointing though!

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  15. So, I guess the take-home message of this review is that I need to read Virtuosity. I am not a huge contemporary reader either (though I have become moreso in the past few months), but I don't think it's just you and your dislike of the genre that made this a bad read. I mean, you should never ben able to describe being in an MC's head as being a "horrifying experience." LOL! Dang, she sounds terrible. I'll be passing on this one just based on that - thanks for this helpful review, Maja!

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  16. Uh I'm sorry to hear that this book disappointed you! :( But I also have that problem with book. If the debut book was awesome I'd expect that the next one be as good. Unfortunately that's not the case always, but I can't help myself. Still you enjoyed Virtuosity at least :)

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  17. This is SUCH a bummer because I loved Virtuosity so much, but I can tell I'm not going to enjoy this one. I'm like you, it's really hard for me to enjoy a book when I hate the characters.

    "If there was ever a more unlikable character, I must have blocked it out of my memory because I simply can’t remember it now." <--this made me laugh, and also may be the only reason I ever pick this up. Just for the challenge of outdoing my current least likable character ever.

    Thanks for this thoughtful, eloquent review. :-)

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  18. Ooo yeah..if I totally cannot connect with a character on some level all hope is lost. I can loathe a character and still like a book if and only if I understand what makes the character tick. So sorry you were let down.

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  19. Although the number of contemporary books I have been reading lately has slowly increased (I blame the lovely Jasprit and Rachel!), it is never going to be my preferred genre and I doubt this book will make it into my hands. I find it incredibly difficult, impossible even, to enjoy a book when the main character is that unlikeable. I'm sorry this didn't quite live up to your expectations, Maja. Brilliant review as always!

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  20. Thanks for sharing your honest review with us. I haven't read anything by this author... yet. :)
    ~Jess

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  21. Oh no! I loved Virtuosity too - swoons over Jeremy for a bit - so it's a shame that you didn't really enjoy this one, Maja. Teen pregnancy isn't the easiest topic to deal with and when the characters are unlikable, I generally stay away. Thanks for the review; I'm going to pass on this one as I don't want my memory of Virtuosity to be tainted :)

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  22. I can tell I'd hate this book. I read a book last year where I HATED the main character. Completely unlikeable in her decisions and the way she treated the people who would actually help her. This sounds exactly like that. You just want to shake some sense into them. You're beyond caring by the end of the story. A case of too little, too late. Sorry this didn't work out for you, Maja, but I can totally see why it wouldn't. Great honest review. :)

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