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White Space by Ilsa J. Bick eARC (3 stars)

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White Space by Ilsa J. Bick was pitched as "The Matrix" meets Inkheart. I think that's a somewhat accurate description, but throw in a little "Inception" and a dash of "Dr. Who." If this sounds like a strange combination, it is. Think suspense thriller mixed with speculative sci-fi/fantasy and a healthy helping of horror. This is the first of Bick's books I've read (though I've been meaning to read Ashes forever), and it was way different from my usual light, fluffy reads; but overall, I think it was pretty good.

This copy was provided through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Some things may be changed in the final version.
White Space by Ilsa J. Bick
Series: Dark Passages #1
Genres: YA, Suspense, Thriller, Horror, Sci-fi
Published on February 11, 2014
Published by Egmont USA
Final Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis:
In the tradition of Memento and Inception comes a thrilling and scary young adult novel about blurred reality where characters in a story find that a deadly and horrifying world exists in the space between the written lines.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it's as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she's real.

Then she writes "White Space," a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, "White Space" turns out to be a dead ringer for part of an unfinished novel by a long-dead writer. The manuscript, which she's never seen, is a loopy Matrix meets Inkheart story in which characters fall out of different books and jump off the page. Thing is, when Emma blinks, she might be doing the same and, before long, she's dropped into the very story she thought she'd written. Trapped in a weird, snow-choked valley, Emma meets other kids with dark secrets and strange abilities: Eric, Casey, Bode, Rima, and a very special little girl, Lizzie. What they discover is that they--and Emma--may be nothing more than characters written into being from an alternative universe for a very specific purpose.

Now what they must uncover is why they've been brought to this place--a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written--before someone pens their end.


Review:
What I liked:
  • It messed with my head. I really liked the shifting realities and unsure footing as to what could/would happen. Are the characters real people or actual characters in books? If you've been written, is your end predestined or can you still make choices that change the story? What is reality?
  • Emma - She had her annoying moments, but for the most part, she was a reasonable, sensible, insane protagonist. I liked the chapters in her perspective and would like to see her further developed.
  • Eric - He was a big brother who loved his little brother; wanted to protect others in general; and had a little angst, but never dwelled on it or bogged anyone down. In short, he was a nice guy, the kind you'd love to meet. Also, he was smart! He was logical, levelheaded and often the voice of common sense in the group.
  • The Writing major in me really liked the shifts in style and tense for the different perspectives and different Nows (presents/worlds/realities/stories). I liked seeing the different moods, atmospheres and voices effected by style changes and seeing the story from different characters' points-of-view.

What I didn't like:

  • The book had a slow start, approximately 60 pages of setup from a 5-year-old's perspective. The writing made an effective 5-year-old's voice, but I wanted "normal" narration after the first 10 pages and the whole scene felt too drawn out. If I hadn't been reading to review, I probably would have put it down during this time.
  • Too much of a good thing - Every chapter increased the tension, contributed to the atmosphere and dropped tiny hints about the world and the plot. But a lot of it should have been cut. 560 pages is pretty hefty, especially for YA, and there were many parts they could have cut without damaging the story. I liked its rambling, surreal feel, but it needed to be reined in and trimmed down.
  • The multiple perspectives - I'm a little torn on this one. I thought it was handled well, and there were certain things we wouldn't know, or would require info dumps,  without chapters in certain people's POV's. On the other hand, this many perspectives contributed to the giant page count and definitely could have been trimmed.
  • The end. They pulled a Twin Peaks on me. It's not a cliffhanger, but it felt like the first chapter of the next book. So put it in the next book! I'd prefer a less concrete ending over this. It leaves you hanging on too many unanswered questions and feels like the author is manipulating you into buying the sequel.

Final Thoughts:
I didn't love this book, but I liked it. I had fun following the story, so it earned its 3 stars. That said, this book will not be for everyone. It's 560 pages (but a new series, not a long awaited, extra thick sequel), the writing is heavily stylized, it gets a little gory, and the shifting perspectives of reality may hurt your brain. If none of these things scare you off, you'll probably enjoy the mind-bending ride.

2 comments :

  1. "hurt your brain' Why yes...that is exactly how this felt for me (and only after 7%) We talked about this some already and I loved that you made it through the entire book and enjoyed the story. I really don't know if I'll try it again or not. If there weren't about a million books I wanted to read I would for sure. You are so right about the beginning being from the 5 year old's perspective being a bit much. So happy to read your review and know that it ended up being a good story.

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    1. I think there would be less brain hurting if the story were trimmed and tightened as a whole. The information you need to figure out what's going on doesn't appear until almost halfway through.

      If you do get around to it, maybe try skipping some of the Lizzie/flashback chapters? There were parts of the second half I really liked and was glad I stuck around for, especially this "OH!" moment where the word geek in me couldn't stop smiling.

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