Ilsa J. Bick
Ages 14 - 17
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.
This is the most challenging review I've ever had to write because I have seriously mixed feelings about WHITE SPACE. I loved Ilsa Bick's first book, ASHES, which was about an EMP turning people into zombies. It was awesome and maddening and--! (I haven't finished reading the other two books in that series yet, though.)
So when I saw that Bick had a new series coming out, I snatched it up lickety split. And the opening chapters did not disappoint. Basically, eight teens from different places and times mysteriously converge in this snowy valley in the middle of who knows where. And there is another story about a little girl whose best-selling author father uses some sort of mystical power to pull characters through a mirror into his stories.
Bick's story-telling is perfection with a capital 'P'. I didn't even care at first that I had no idea what was going on or what all the references to dark passages and the sign of sure and a bunch of other bizarre things were. The first third of the book played out like your worst nightmare, a deliciously creepy, gory, terrifying horror story even Stephen King couldn't dream up.
But then it just kept going...and going...and going...
I think about half way through I started wondering when things would start to make sense, at least a little. I kept on reading in good faith, trusting that I was in good hands and that eventually all the different story threads and bizarre references would fall into place. I didn't expect closure, per se, because Bick is known for cliffhanger endings. She loves to leave things dangling, so I was prepared for that.
What I wasn't prepared for was the 560 page trek leading me, essentially, no where. Now wait! Before you think I'm complaining or that this is a bad review - it is not!!! On the contrary. Okay. I'd be lying if I didn't say I am totally frustrated and confused, but I think this was intentional on the author's part. There is a can't-miss-it parallel to Alice in Wonderland, a very dark gruesome Alice in Wonderland. My son said it's kind of like the video game Alice: Madness where everything is twisted and convoluted and dark and violent.
In WHITE SPACE you are in the head of Emma, or are you? They are characters in a book, or are they really?
I don't think the book needed to be 560 pages long, but it never drags. Not for a moment. The horror scenes are shockingly detailed, incredibly visual and tactal. Reading this is a physical and psychological experience you won't soon forget. I think if you go into it knowing that you are embarking on a story (or stories) that is non-linear, tangled up like a big ball of twine and you are trying to coax out some logic from it all - but you can't - so don't bother, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Bask in Bick's unncanny turns of phrase. Savor the suspense, the detail, the horror of it all. And hope maybe Book 2 will shed a little light on what is really going on.