My rating: 2 of 5 stars
“The Space Between Trees,” by Katie Williams, is another example where an amazing cover and a truly intriguing premise disguise a story and characters that are only so-so.
As the story opens, we find Evie, our main character, lingering along her paper route as she hopes to run into her crush, Jonas. Rather older than Evie and out of high school, Jonah works gathering dead animals out of the woods near the housing development. Today, however, Jonah finds not a dead deer, but a dead girl; Evie’s childhood friend, Zabet. Evie and Hadley, Zabet’s best friend, come together in a search for the murderer.
Interesting story, right? It might be, if the characterization followed through. The tin may say murder mystery, but “The Space Between Trees” is far more of a character analysis, and the characters just don’t cut it.
Evie is withdrawn from her own life, distant, flat, and a compulsive liar. She may as well be a cartoon of a sullen teenager. I found it increasingly difficult to connect to her, and rather than make me want to try harder, her presentation simply made me like her less. She constructs complex fantasy worlds for herself, making up a relationship between herself & Jonah and describing it to others. There’s no way they’ll ever find out that no such relationship exists, however, and therefore no tension. Who cares if she’s lying? She’ll never get caught.
Hadley, Zabet’s real best friend and, at times, both protagonist and antagonist, is an equally one-dimensional portrayal of the bad girl. She lies, cheats, steals, is promiscuous, loves and hates Evie in turns, drives too fast, you name it. But there’s nothing new or interesting here; it’s the same old cliches. She acts out because her parents don’t love her, boys only like her for her body, etc.
There’s no character growth here; at no point did I feel like Evie or Hadley regretted any of their actions, or would make different choices given the opportunity. The weak characterization makes the author’s over-arching point–that sometimes bad things just happen to good people for no reason–vague and useless. Good or bad, I couldn’t care less what happens to these characters.