The Spaces Between Us

Christy Ottaviano Bks./Holt. Jul. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250174925.
Gr 10 Up–Barely surviving the mundanity of small town living, high school seniors and best friends Serena Velasco and Melody Grimshaw are determined to get out. Bored with their surroundings, the pair isolates themselves by holding on to dreams that exist far outside of their run-down factory town. After intentionally failing her Western Civ class, Serena is offered the chance to participate in an independent study; she must examine upward mobility as she observes it in her community, or fail the year. Meanwhile, Grimshaw’s dream of becoming a professional dancer seems within her grasp when she makes the cheerleading team. Suddenly embraced by her peers, she gets a taste of what life outside Colchis could be if she can find a job and escape her family’s sordid past. Yet, dream-chasing proves to be more than either expected; when Grimshaw’s desperation to leave Colchis becomes dangerous, Serena is forced to reckon with who she really is behind the sarcasm and guarded persona. This intense, dark coming-of-age story extends coast to coast as Serena attempts to repair the spaces that have grown between her and the people she loves. From examining the rituals of an American high school to engaging in profound conversations with cross-country truckers, the novel raises the question: Can we move beyond our family and community legacy to achieve more? Beautiful prose emphasizes complex themes of faith, the class system, and personal responsibility.
VERDICT With its impeccably developed characters and hard-hitting narrative, this is an essential purchase for teen and new adult collections.

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