The Space Between by Victoria H. Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Space Between is about two star-crossed lovers who find a course to their forever. Sound familiar? This Romeo and Juliet retelling has a different energy than most stories I’ve read with similar themes. Perhaps it’s the tone of the writing. Maybe it’s the age of the characters. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this book is different…refreshing…for an NA novel.
Truman Drake, who goes by Drake, is your typical bored rich kid who is itching for a thrill. New in town, he stumbles upon a game of chance which takes him places he’d never imagined.
Lacey is an aspiring diva (and I mean that in the operatic way) from the rough side of town who works on a small production as she muddles through life with the weight world on her shoulders unable to take a step toward her dreams.
Through an accidental encounter, their lives are changed.
Early in the book, the women appealed to me. It is rare that I connect with a female character in the NA books I’ve read, so to find so many similarities in Lacey was a nice surprise. Her sensibilities defy her age. At 18 she speaks and behaves as a woman much, much older; however, I did not like her need to “teach Drake a lesson” during their first real encounter. I found that whole scene unbelievable. If she called the cops over someone buying drugs on the West Side of Chicago I doubt they’d be so quick to arrive (I’m from Chicago), much less stop some kid on the street without trying to find out where he got the dope from. Cops can’t raid the house without a warrant (although we wrote the book on misconduct), but Lacey called in a complaint, so there’s due cause . All of them might have gone to jail for the night, but I digress…
Lacey has a fairy godmother of sorts in the form of her bestie, Margot (a drug dealer with a heart of gold). What starts as an underhanded but sweet gesture to get Lacey on the stage for the last performance quickly turns into a predictable routine for the two. Lacey complains she’s broke. Margot asks about her application at the nanny agency. Lacey gets a dream job, and so on. Whatever Margot speaks becomes reality for Lacey. Maybe I took issue there because I don’t have close girlfriends to kick me in the pants when I lack motivation.
Drake isn’t your typical snob, either. Turns out he’s adopted–although it was mentioned briefly just once at the very beginning and not again until halfway into the book–(I also had a difficult time envisioning him as a Korean kid from the descriptions) into a wealthy and high-profile family.
Here’s where the book gets preachy:
Drake’s adopted father is apparently a bigot and has been distant Drake’s entire life. I didn’t find anything outright hateful–he read more like a self-serving, career-focused man of means–that would make me agree with this assessment. What drove the point home was when Drake spoke of his sister’s birth and subsequent change in his father. I could relate to his differences suddenly being on display and feeling like an outsider in his own home. Thankfully, Drake’s father didn’t appear much in the book, but when he does, I feel as if the author went out of her way to make him villainous.
Then there’s the ghetto thug Tyrone who briefly terrorizes them, and the hood with the conscious (Lacey’s cousin Derrick). Between Margot and Derrick Lacey and Drake have their very own Friar Laurence and Mercutio. All the Romeo and Juliet players make an appearance in one way or another.
After the couple’s failed first meeting, they believe they’re out of each other’s lives for good. If that were true, then the book would be super short. Anyway, that dream job I spoke of is with Drake’s family as a personal assistant. She is to babysit Drake and his sister, Adele, who at the beginning of the book reads much older than her 15 years.
The middle of the book is filled with their comings and goings around the North Shore and Chicago’s West Side, and Lacey’s attempts to endear herself to the family. I truly wish Chicago had more of a role in the book. I felt no authenticity in the settings (yes, I’m from Chicago, and I even live on the North Shore. I also have a freshman at Northwestern).
These two give up on keeping away from each other after Adele tells Drake their father made Lacey feel less than welcome with his snobbery just as she was warming up to the young woman. Drake, of course, goes to make it right and gets beat down by Ty (I see what she did there–he’s her Tybalt, except he doesn’t die). Lacey nurses Drake back to health and they do the deed.
Up to this point, I was wondering what genre this book was because it lacked the grit common in most Urban fiction I’ve read, and it certainly lacked the smut of New Adult/Contemporary fiction I’ve come across. This book could pass as a Young Adult novel it’s so tame in the sexy-times and the language is mild. I am not complaining. I actually appreciate Ms. Smith’s presentation.
There’s not a lot to say about the second act of the book. I do like the characters, a lot. I see myself and my experiences in them. I can relate, particularly when Lacey’s mom passes and she’s on her own. However, if not for the chapter headers, I was hard-pressed to determine who was narrating. Their voices blended together and everyone sounded the same–even in the dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue: these kids, even down to the youngest ones, spoke much too mature. I work in a well-to-do high school district and kids don’t talk like that. I understand that Lacey and Drake have had their childhoods stolen from them in one way or another, so they were wiser than their years (preaching to the choir here), but there’s this formal-ness to their speech that didn’t feel natural.
What follow Lacey’s mom’s passing is another over-the-top attempt at villainy by Mr. Drake which causes Mrs. Drake’s blatantly foreshadowed ‘misunderstanding’ between Lacey and Drake to come true.
The third act whizzes by with forlorn prose of the stubborn and heartbroken. There’s a bit more preaching by the supporting cast. There was just a lot going on throughout the entire book which has a decent-sized cast. Margot and Lacey’s mom (by-proxy of a lawyer) sprinkle fairy dust around and Lacey is able to follow her dreams at the 11th hour. At the same time Drake gets his head out of his bum and goes to get his woman. He drops out of school before it even starts, empties his savings and moves to Paris for Lacey.
In a really cute scene, Margot strikes again, and sets Lacey up for her to have everything she’s ever wanted in one fell swoop. On a busy Parisian sidewalk, Drake waits for his love with Adele fawning over the whole scene while their parents have no real idea of their whereabouts. And they live happily ever after. But there’s a sequel.
I really had high hopes for this book, but after the opening few chapters, it quickly became an After School Special. I felt talked at a lot and bludgeoned by the lesson the author felt compelled to teach instead of truly experiencing–feeling–what Drake and Lacey were going through.
I really wanted to love this book, but overall the book was just okay.
The writing needs a bit more refinement and a finer hand during the editing process. The characters’ descriptions didn’t give me much to go on, but that’s okay, however the continued use of certain words such as porcelain, mahogany, caramel, etc., became distracting. There were also times when people were described as caucasian, black, or Asian. Those tell me something, but don’t show me much. There was more time spent describing clothing, cars, and furnishings than the people. I didn’t see for myself that Drake was handsome or Lacey was beautiful, that both were desirable except by other characters’ reactions to them. Despite the nondescript characterizations and setting, I still like these characters. I found something in these guys that I could relate to, that made me want to keep reading. Kudos to the author for that because I might have given up and skimmed the book had she not created people worth rooting for.
All-in-all, the delivery is just a bit off, but time spent in The Space Between is not wasted. I’m off to start the sequel.
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