Thin Space by Jody Casella
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Paranormal
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: September 10 2013
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
In a word: A surprisingly heartbreaking family drama, a quirky main character you will want to root for, filled with tension and secrets throughout, and just a dash of the supernatural.
I feel like a doofball in these blue clogs. My feet are still tingling, like ants are crawling around under the skin. I probably did get frostbitten, which I have to admit is not a good thing. If I freeze my feet off, there’s no way I’ll ever make it into a thin space.
Thin Space was a very different story than what I expected, and I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. The blurb makes it sound like a paranormal, and it is—eventually. But most of the story is an emotional family drama about a boy named Marshall whose twin brother has recently died in a car accident, and the terrible struggle he goes through to come to terms with what really happened the night of the accident—the night Marshall was driving and his brother Austin took his seatbelt off. Let me tell you, this is a page-turner! Casella writes a suspenseful story that is less action-oriented and more about uncovering secrets, and if you’re like me, you’ll be dying to figure them out. If you’ve seen the movie Ordinary People (OK now I’m really dating myself!), you’ll get the gist of the tone of Thin Space: a family torn apart by the death of their son, the parents inability to talk about it, and the surviving son’s guilt over his brother’s death. All of this adds up to a powerful story about moving on.
Only three months have passed since Marsh’s twin brother Austin died in a car accident, and since then he’s only had one thing on his mind: Marsh is trying to find a “thin space,” a place where the wall between the living and the dead is so thin that it’s possible to pass through to the other side. Marsh wants to find one so that he can tell Austin something very important. He thinks there might be one in his neighbor’s house, an old woman named Mrs. Hansel who recently died. In order to find and pass through one, however, you have to be barefoot, so Marsh has quit wearing shoes all together. Everyone at home and school thinks he’s gone crazy because of the accident, but Marsh knows better.
When a family moves into Mrs. Hansel’s house, Marsh makes friends with the new girl, Maddie, and eventually tells her about thin spaces. Together they embark on an unusual quest to find a thin space, and in the process get to know each other better. But Marsh has a secret, one so powerful that he’s afraid to tell anyone, especially his own family. As the story moves toward its exciting conclusion, Marsh must learn how to overcome his anger and forgive himself.
Casella is absolutely brilliant at conveying emotions through her characters. Here we have a terrible situation: a teenage boy, star football player and all-around popular guy, has been killed. You can feel the raw emotions of his mother and father as they try to go about their lives, which of course is nearly impossible to do. Instead of dealing with their feelings, they ignore them, and the tension this causes just gets worse and worse as the story goes on. Then there’s Marsh. He’s quit the football team and is ignoring his girlfriend, he never talks to his friends anymore, and to top it all off, he’s started going barefoot at school. (I did have an issue with this; although I love the idea of Marsh being barefoot all the time, I doubt most schools would allow students to come to school without shoes on.) Even stranger, Marsh is often seen slowly walking around, dragging his bare feet over the ground. He’s looking for a thin space, but nobody knows that.
Teen romance and angst are so well described that I almost felt as if I were back in high school! The story is told from Marsh’s point of view, and he gives us flashbacks of the events that led up to the car accident, slowly revealing his reasons for trying to find a thin space. Part of the story involves the boys’ girlfriends, Logan and Kate, and one fateful night when Marsh made a decision that changed everyone’s lives. Maddie and Marsh have a very slow-building romance, but it’s a minor part of the story. The focus is on Marsh’s big secret, and that’s something you won’t find out until the very end. I had no idea what was coming, and I thought the ending was absolutely perfect.
My only issue with the book was a jarring supernatural moment near the end, after an entire book that felt like contemporary fiction. I understand that this was necessary for the story, but I almost wished Casella had left it out. If anything is going to be debated about Thin Space, it’s this event.
Thin Space is a believable account of how lives are affected by the death of a teenager. As the story unfolds, you can see Marsh moving through the different stages of grief, and coming finally to a place of acceptance. Emotional, tense and eventually heartwarming, Thin Space is a must read.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. You can find Thin Space here: