A Beautiful Debut | Review of ‘The Girl in Between’

By Cynthia Ayala

The Girl in Between by Sarah Carroll
Kathy Dawson Books
Image Credit: Goodreads

Homeless but not alone, a young girl lives with her mother in an abandoned mill worried every day that the authorities are going to take her away. But with developers coming their way to tear the place down, she must contend with her mothers’ personal demons and the ghosts of the past haunting them.

Published June 20, 2017, by Kathy Dawson Books, The Girl in Between is the debut novel by Sarah Carroll, a young adult tale about family, homelessness and the love between a mother and daughter.

A beautiful story about the relationship between daughter and mother. But it’s not the typical story. Both are homeless, living in an old abandoned mill. But there is some tension to the relationship as the mother, who falls into the darkness of alcohol and drugs. What’s powerful about the novel is that nothing is explicit but the danger is still there. What also works so powerfully is the way that novel functions, going back and forth between the past and the present. The reason it works so well is because the author separates the structure of the past and the present but ties the past to the present by exploring the past as it connects to something specific in the present. The anxiety is there, the tension is there and emotional resonance that connects to the character and her relationship with her mother.

That structure works so well because it focuses the reader’s attention to the story and the events. There is nothing lost, nothing to confuse the reader and the past is given just as much attention as the present is, helping the story be cohesive. Those elements of the past highlight’s the narrators naïve understanding of the world but they also highlight the dangers for her. The reader understands her danger better than she does, and that works to create tension and empathy for the narrator. There’s so much going on that the innocence doesn’t quite understand but that the reader does. And that works so well to grab the reader’s attention. It’s not even that the narrator’s mom is a bad mom, she’s lost, but her loss isn’t helping her daughter, in fact, it’s putting her in such terrible danger.

This is a remarkable debut novel because it touches on homelessness, it touches on the bonds between mother and daughter, how they can sometimes be damaging, no matter the love that there is. There are always wrong ways to love, selfish ways to love, and that concept is expressed so beautifully here. It’s a haunting novel because of that, because of the past and how it can haunt and damage someone, how it can hurt a person’s heart and soul. Personally, I loved that because that only made it more engaging to read.

There is also the fact that this novel is not without its twists. The biggest one being at the end and so heartbreaking. But it was magnificently structured, with allusions and hints to how the story might end, how it would end. Yet it still takes the reader by surprise, grasping at those heart strings. For a debut novel, it’s powerfully written with masterfully told. (★★★★★ | A)

Product Details:

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

Page count: 208pp

Age Range: 12 & Over

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2860-3

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

List Price:  $16.99

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