The Space Between Heartbeats by Melissa Pearl | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
Originally released under the title Betwixt, and now repackaged through Alloy Entertainment as The Space Between Heartbeats; Melissa Pearl crafts a comforting, painful and truly beautiful story of a young girl caught between life and death. It is a story about maturing, about loss and about making a positive change in life before it’s too late.
It reminds us that life is beautiful and full of second chances to those who need only ask. The Space Between Heartbeats is a triumph on many levels; capturing raw human emotion and teenage angst perfect, all the while giving off the power to cry and laugh on many occasions.
Melissa is able to tie all the good and bad traits of life together and create a hopeful and mysterious tone that will leave fans of If I Stay, The Lovely Bones and The Lying Game enjoying themselves. The Space Between Heartbeats is oddly similar to all three but ultimately a different story and very uplifting.
We follow teenage party-girl and overall wild child, Nicole Tepper, in her half-ghostly form as she struggles to better herself and find her body with help from the only person who can see/hear her: Dale Finnegan. It’s good old fluff to watch these two try and piece together what happened to Nicole and search for where her broken body lay.
And to say these two have an unfortunate history is to say the least, just see the charming little nickname Nicole gave him once upon a time to hit him right where it hurts. So things aren’t always easy for these two and during their time playing detective, they form a bond and realize that there’s a lot of common ground between the two.
But can they reach Nicole’s physical body before it’s too late? Did someone try to kill her? Was there an accident? Things grow more and more confusing and complicated as time ticks by; her friends don’t seem to care she is missing, her parents don’t know what to do and to make matters worse her spirit is pulled back to her body frequently–and then she hears the voices of two men who are looking to cover up the fact that someone hit her with their car.
Nicole’s time is running out and if Dale can’t lead someone to her body quick enough, she will be buried whether she is alive or dead. They soon find that they can’t report this to the police because maybe, just maybe, they aren’t really on their side. It was surprising and hurtful to see it all unfold; how she was injured and who did it.
I loved how resilient both Nicole and Dale are. I think that Dale is a fantastic male lead and sparkles despite his nice-guy-with-a-bad-boy-past personality. I loved that Nicole truly grows as she has this out of body experience and that we know that she will have a positive change if she should survive.
I loved seeing the two bond together in loss and the shared tragedy of the past; Nicole’s younger sister who did at age nine, Dale’s friends whom he had to watch die. I liked their chemistry and the way their histories parallel each other. I enjoyed that they genuinely care for each other in a way that’s rare and pure.
I wanted to give this novel a higher rating than I did, but something is holding me back from doing so. I liked the story that unfolded when it came to Nicole’s younger sister, I liked the way that Dale’s past and his scar; there was just a lot of space in between that was underwhelming for me.
I thought at times it came across as cheesy and dull. It just took a while to get out from under its own feet. I thought that while Dale and Nicole are both incredibly developed characters, there could have been more done with everyone else. It felt like the friends and the villains and the families were just there and generic.
Adam is completely lackluster and predictable, the police are no help and so dry, as are Nicole’s “friends” and “boyfriend” who genuinely are just a group of selfish teenagers that have no clue and don’t care about anything. They’re real in that sense but they also just feel completely fake–how can that many kids not have any sort of conscience at all?
How are they not scared for their friend? It makes no sense. It's like they have no source of affection for the girl whatsoever and that's very upsetting. And then, when Nicole is found, they act like they care. I’m glad that this wasn’t pushed aside; that their behavior wasn’t going to slide.
So it sort of puts the brakes on what could have otherwise been a five star novel. I’m not saying it isn’t enjoyable; it’s a nice story and will be comforting to its audience. I’d read a sequel, definitely, and I’d recommend it to some–but not everyone.