Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 30 2012
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a story is to find an author who knows how to slowly reveal her story’s secrets. Kimberly Sabatini does this by taking our hands and leading us into a strange and wondrous version of the afterlife, a world where the dead are trying to figure out what comes next, and the answers are not at all clear-cut. This is the type of book that really makes you think. Through story the author is asking each of us to take stock of how we live our lives, and evaluate whether or not we’re on the right path. But don’t be scared off by this seemingly heavy subject matter; Touching the Surface is also a funny, romantic, and nail-biting story full of quirky characters and gorgeous imagery.
When the story begins, a girl named Elliott has just been pulled out of a lake, and moments later realizes that she is back at the Obmil for the third time. Elliott, you see, has just died again, and the fact that she’s here in this familiar place tells her that something has gone wrong in her previous life. We are introduced to a host of characters who are also trying to work out their issues and who all seem to be connected to Elliott in one way or another. Elliott is especially drawn to two boys, Oliver and Trevor. Oliver is sweet and friendly and seems to have had a positive relationship with Elliott in her last life. Trevor, however, is an angry young man who despises Elliott and tries to avoid her, despite the fact that he cannot stay away from her. But the relationship among the three of them is much more complicated that you think, and Sabatini uses all 300+ pages to slowly peel back the layers of their stories, only revealing the truths near the end. Mixed in with this drama is a girl named Julia, a girl who has traveled with Elliott through all three of her lives but decides it might be for the best to leave Elliott behind and find her path without her friend, a decision that confuses and hurts them both.
Elliott and her friends must participate in “delving,” a way of reliving a past life in order to remember significant moments. But she is terrified that whatever event caused her to end up here will be too painful of a memory, so Elliott tries to avoid delving as long as possible. It is only with Trevor’s help that she finds the courage to face the past and move on. This is not a story that is easy to predict. More than once I fell into the trap of thinking I had things figured out, only to be surprised when events unfolded quite differently than I expected.
One of my favorite parts of Touching the Surface is the way the Obmil constantly shifts and changes. Residents are able to project and create whatever reality they want or need, and so the scenery and weather are always in flux. (It reminded me a bit of the individual “heavens” in The Lovely Bones.) Each physical reality a character creates not only adds an interesting layer to the story, but works as a metaphor to describe what that character is trying to work through. And speaking of characters, I loved all the complicated but ultimately satisfying relationships between Elliott and her friends in the afterlife. You might not understand them all at first, but Sabatini gets to the bottom of each character’s soul in surprising and revealing ways. I also loved Kimberly’s writing, which is lovely and poetic and full of emotion. After all, souls at the Obmil are working through some pretty disturbing memories, and the prose lets the emotions of the characters shine through.
Kudos to Sabatini for being brave enough, in a very crowded YA market where many books are starting to feel the same, to break the mold and write a story with depth and heart, a story that makes the reader think about things like soul mates, heaven and hell, and whether or not the path you take in this life will have repercussions in the next. I suspect that everyone who reads this book will take away something different from it, which is exactly the way it should be.
Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. After her dad passed away in 2005, she used writing as a way to make sense of the experience and discovered that she’s full of questions that need to be answered. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. She is thrilled to be part of the “Wolf Pack.” TOUCHING THE SURFACE is her debut novel.
This giveaway is now over. Giveaway Time! I’m thrilled to be one of Kimberly’s “hotspots” to help her promote Touching the Surface! She has sent me a bunch of goodies, some of which I’m giving away right here! One lucky winner will receive a hardcover copy of Touching the Surface, as well as a signed bookmark, bracelet and some lovely paper cranes (which figure into the story, so if you want to find out the meaning behind them, you will just have to read the book!). Four additional winners will receive a signed bookmark, bracelet and a paper crane. This giveaway is super simple! For a chance to win one of these prizes, simply leave a comment below, telling me whether or not you think you’ve met your soul mate. In the spirit of the holidays, I’m opening this giveaway up to EVERYONE, which means it’s international. Giveaway will run until December 24, at which time I’ll pick the winners using random.org. Many thanks to Kimberly for supplying the bookmarks, bracelets and cranes:) Good luck everyone!