White Space – Ilsa J Bick
I heard about this little while ago when perusing Bloglovin and was instantly intrigued, then I saw it pop up on Netgalley and knew I had to have it, but honestly, this might be one of the most difficult things to review I could have possibly chosen. Guys, this is my first DNF.
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
I managed 45% before I decided that I was bashing my head against a brick wall with this. I hate not finishing books, even if something is truly terrible, I will see it through to the bitter end because a bad story will not beat me. My problem with White Space is it isn’t a bad story, in fact, its kind of genius and the majority of what I read was terrifying and awesome and all kinds of compelling, I just can not for the life of me fathom what on earth is going on. So, I’ve decided the sensible thing to do is to leave it and come back to it, perhaps when there is less for me to think about and more time to donate to it. In light of this, here are my thoughts on 45% of it.
This isn’t a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, the story is wonderful, its incredibly compelling, so much so that I stuck with this to practically the middle because I want to know what is going on, but what I know so far doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. There are far too many names, made up words and phrases being thrown around without explanation, I have no idea what a Dickens Mirror is, what it does or why it does it. I don’t know what a Sign of Sure is, why it is in Lizzie’s blanket, what it is supposed to do and why Lizzie needs to be touching it when coming up with a plan. I don’t know why Lizzie and her dad can do the things that they do, I don’t know anything about why Emma can do what she does or why Rima’s talents exist. I don’t know why Lily would allow Emma to drive in a snow storm, or why Emma would allow herself if she knows that she suffers from ‘blinks’ or seizures…
I know world building can be tedious, but it is also a little necessary, I can accept not having a clue at the beginning, but almost half way through and not really following isn’t helpful. I’m told through other reviews that the whole thing clicks into place and makes sense around 70% of the way in… Well…
From what I can understand, the Dickens Mirror (whatever that is and whether or not it actually belonged to Charles Dickens) is used as a portal of sorts to bring characters from the dark passage to the here and now and that Lizzie’s dad (horror writer, Frank McDermott) is a bit addicted to using it, unleashing horrible beasties into the world and somehow Emma’s guardian, Jasper, also had one and used it a bit too much and Emma may or may not have had a bad experience based on this? I’m not really sure if I’m onto the right track or not with this…I could have pretty much just summed up my review of this book by posting a picture of me shrugging… In fact, here is a picture of a pretty person shrugging, just for an accurate visual representation of how little I understand anything:
Darren doesn’t know. Leah doesn’t know either.
I think the fact that there is so much going on with very little background is what’s making me find reading this book so hard. When there is background knowledge, like about Emma’s blinks and why she’s in a car driving up an imaginary mountain in a snow storm, it is a little out of place because it jumps from the explanation back into whatever the character is doing. I don’t mind having multiple narrators who take over at different points, but when they all appear to be super natural and connected with no real explanations as to why, I find my brain starts to drip out of my ears.
Has anyone else read this? Can you please, please, please put me out of my misery, is Emma’s telling off from Kramer foreshadowing? Is her short story the thing that is actually happening?
There were many mentions of the Matrix and Inception, things like that during the chapters that I did plough through, which I’m not sure if I liked. I know this book is supposed to be similar to those things, but I think that should be up to the people reading the book if they want to compare them, not the author… But, you know, that’s just me. When there were references to the whole red pills, blue pills, Matrix, Morpheus stuff though it was like a beacon of light where I could excitedly declare:
I want to come back to this one day and see it through to the end, at the moment though, its starting to feel like a chore and I’m actively avoiding it because I’m just so confused by it all… I love the awful monster things, they reminded me a little of the black smoke monster from Lost, but with the same abilities as the angels from Supernatural, you know the whole burning eyes out of faces type thing? That’s what I was imagining when whatever it is that lives in the dark passages is unleashed. Lizzie’s parts of the story were also great, very creepy and the others are compelling, I just can’t figure it out just now. Maybe it’ll all fall into place and I’ll shout EUERKA! and write another review about how good this is. Today is not that day.
Thinking about it, this would make an amazing film and is perhaps limited in book form which is what makes it so confusing.
Worst review ever award goes to me. I’m sorry. The next one will be much better, I hope!