First published in Cinders volume issue three
Spoken word novels are a new trend in YA literature. We saw it with last year’s highly successful One by Sarah Crossan and Meg Grehan’s The Space Between uses the same format. And it uses it so very well.
Once you are a few pages into The Space Between it’s difficult to imagine the book being written in anything but verse – it’s the absolutely perfect format to tell Beth’s story.
The Space Between is a beautiful examination of how mental health disorders can pin someone inside their own mind and then how through small but significant battles they can work their way out and live with them.
Beth is not okay. She has made a decision to remain within her house for a year. She is falling in on herself and only going further down when she meets Mouse. Mouse is friendly and kind and fluffy and warm.
With Mouse comes his owner, Alice. Alice is bright and brave and friendly, and with her help Beth starts to come out of herself piece by piece and slowly get back in touch with her heart.
The beautiful language that is used in The Space Between is rich and full. Its disjointed rhythm is immersive and feels like thought rather than narration. Each fabulous verse makes you want to read them aloud as you go and hear each syllable.
The beautiful language that is used in The Space Between is rich and full. It’s disjointed rhythm is immersive and feels like thought rather than narration. Each fabulous verse makes you want to read them aloud as you go and hear each syllable.
Language surrounds every aspect of The Space Between – it’s how Beth comforts herself, by hiding in books. It’s how she and Alice make a connection and it’s what she is both running from and misses most – the bookshop. The love of language is obvious and the best stanzas and verses are some of the simplest.
There is a harrowing chapter where the repetition of the words ‘shut up’ beats the helplessness and anguish that mental health disorders can unleash. Without ever specifying what exactly it is that Beth is suffering with it paints a stark picture of depression and anxiety and the difficulty of escaping from it.
But fight her way out of it Beth does. The Space Between is a beautiful depiction of how friends and lovers can help us through the hard times, while never ‘saving’ us from them. Beth has to save herself.
It shows that ‘recovery’ takes time but persistence is rewarded. It’s also a lovely depiction of what it is like to fall in love with another person. To learn little pieces of them, then bigger pieces. It shows the value of someone simply standing beside you, willing to fight your battles not for you – but with you.
There are no happy endings in The Space Between – there is something more like a happy beginning.
So, if you need help fighting the good fight and want something to propel you along the way, read The Space Between. Remember how nice it is to walk with someone else. Let it remind you that life is too messy for prose, life needs stanzas and verses picking out the points that make sense. That life needs a happy dog to remind you of the good things.
The Space Between is one of them. I’ll definitely be reading it again.
– Reviewed by Méabh McDonnell