For years, Abby has worshiped her “perfect” older sister, Tess, whom everyone loves. But now Tess is lying in a hospital bed in a coma, the result of a car accident. Abby just wants Tess to wake up and get on with her life so that Abby can get on with hers. Abby’s daily visits to Tess’s bedside to talk to her and wait for her to wake up consume Abby’s life. Enter Eli, the most gorgeous boy Abby has ever seen; even his voice is beautiful.
Abby comes up with a plan to help Tess wake up. She enlists the help of Eli, whom she asks to spend time talking to Tess. Surely, his wonderful voice will jerk Tess out of her coma. Of course, when Tess wakes up, she will see Eli, and it will be love at first sight. Everyone will then live happily ever after.
But things don’t always work out like they’ve been planned. Abby never counted on having feelings for Eli, and she always thought Tess would wake up. She didn’t know that Tess and their neighbor, Claire, were carrying around secrets that had affected both their lives and their futures. What Abby comes to realize is that no one is really perfect; perfection is in the eyes of the beholder.
Elizabeth Scott has touched on many sensitive subjects—self-perception, sexuality, racial discrimination, and OCD—in her lovely story. Abby feels she has always been overshadowed by her older sister, nearly to the point of invisibility. Everyone loves Tess, wants to be around Tess, wants to date Tess. Abby feels she will never measure up to Tess, even when Tess is in a coma. Even though Abby says she hates Tess, it is apparent that is exactly the opposite. Why else would Abby try so hard to wake her up?
The way that Eli’s OCD is presented is both touching and believable. Many people with OCD cannot live a normal life, even on medication. Although Eli still exhibits some symptoms, he is able to cope in a fairly normal way. However, on top of his disorder, he also has to deal with the fact that his parents consider him damaged goods, and send him to live with his grandfather. Additionally, Eli is half Japanese, part black, and part white. While he is taunted and ostracized by the students at his school for his disorder, he is accepted at the school for his ethnicity. While this makes for a heavy burden, Eli is still sensitive, caring, and even gets ruffled at times. I loved Eli; he was a “knight in shining armor” for Abby!
Claire, Abby’s neighbor, now works at the hospital where Tess is. Much to her surprise, Abby discovers that Tess and Claire had been much more than best friends. When they had their falling out, Claire wanted Tess to “come out” so that they could be seen as a couple. Tess was afraid that everyone’s perception and expectations of her would change; she would no longer be perfect in everyone’s eyes. Claire was wounded by Tess’s actions, got pregnant and had a baby boy. Tess could not forgive Claire and, thus, ruined her senior year. This part of the book was extremely interesting, especially seeing these events unfold, in retrospect, through Abby’s eyes. She finally was able to understand that her sister was very unhappy, and possibly depressed. Of course, this was not how everyone else saw Tess!
I found out, after reading the book, that Abby’s parents had actually been teenagers in another of Elizabeth Scott’s novels, Bloom. While Between Here and Forever is a stand-alone book, if readers want some background information, they might want to read Bloom first.
This novel is a sensitive, flowing read. I recommend it for high school and public libraries!
*Note: I read an advanced readers’ copy of Between Here and Forever that I received from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab on nook. The book will be released on May 24. 2011.