What happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

Today’s review: The In-Between

17286845

Cover of Barbara Stewart’s The In-Between

Author: Barbara Stewart

Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin

Released: 2013
Number of pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary/ Fantasy/ Paranormal/ Thriller
Series: Standalone

When Elanor’s near-death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by bold, beautiful Madeline, she finds her life quickly spiraling out of control.

Fourteen-year-old Elanor Moss has always been an outcast who fails at everything she tries—she’s even got the fine, white scars to prove it. Moving was supposed to be a chance at a fresh start, a way to leave behind all the pain and ugliness of her old life. But, when a terrible car accident changes her life forever, her near-death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by Madeline Torus . . . Madeline is everything Elanor isn’t: beautiful, bold, brave. She is exactly what Elanor has always wanted in a best friend and more—their connection runs deeper than friendship. But Madeline is not like other girls, and Elanor has to keep her new friend a secret or risk being labeled “crazy.” Soon, though, even Elanor starts to doubt her own sanity. Madeline is her entire life, and that life is drastically spinning out of control. Elanor knows what happens when your best friend becomes your worst enemy. But what happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

With her debut novel, The In-Between, Barbara Stewart presents a bold new voice in teen fiction.

Goodreads.com

Ellie Moss thought that moving house would give her a fresh start at life. Old Ellie was depressed, overweight, and suicidal. Her best friend had dropped her as soon as she found someone better. A razor blade to her wrist was the only way Old Ellie could ever feel anything. But the move was going to change everything. New Ellie would be smart, confident, in-shape. New Ellie would make loads of friends at her new school in her new life. But then came the car crash, and with it, Ellie’s new life crumbled around her. With a severe brain injury and the loss of a parent hanging over her, Ellie soon finds herself withdrawing back into the old shell that she was so desperate to escape.

But then came Madeline Torus. Moving into a new home with one parent in an urn on the study desk is enough to have Ellie’s fingers edging towards a razor blade again. But then, seemingly out of the blue, appears Madeline; the girl of Ellie’s dreams. Madeline is beautiful, intelligent, and best of all, she understand Ellie like no one ever has. She too is running from a dark past that is slowly catching up. Ellie’s life becomes more and more dependent on Madeline; she is her rock, her only source of comfort, and ironically, her only source of sanity. But soon, Ellie finds that the longer she spends with Madeline, the less control she has over her own life. Ellie begins to say and do things without control of her actions, and the deeper she is pushed into her friendship with Madeline, Ellie begins to realise the dangers of love, loneliness and obsession beyond control.

This was officially my first book for 2015, and it really started on a high! It is a little bit hard to review this book, due to the many crucial plot points that I will try to avoid, lest I spoil the book, but I will do my best!
Set in a quiet town where the nearest little big city is half an hour away, The In-Between is immediately effective in setting the quiet, eerie scenes of the book’s events. Isolation is a major theme of this book and whilst protagonist Ellie Moss is isolated within herself, the remoteness of the setting adequately reinforces this. I do have a soft spot for quiet little towns and forest settings, which I suppose made me enjoy it more, but I did think that the reclusive setting was very appropriate for the book’s story and themes.

I felt that the story moved at a good pace, the events and the narration moving just fast enough to keep it engaging, but not so slow as it dragged along. I was always motivated to keep reading, and I did, sometimes late into the night which was a nice feeling- I haven’t done that with a book in a while! As the plot marched along, the tension began to increase significantly. The book has you asking a lot of questions at the start, but don’t let that put you off, everything is explained in good time, and as the pieces of the puzzle began to come together, I found myself racing through the book, reading as fast as I could to find the answers. The book focused primarily on Ellie’s obsession with Madeline and the world of the “in-between”, and although Ellie did gain a love interest at one point, it didn’t distract from the tension and gravity of the main plot, for which I thanked my lucky stars.

I really liked Ellie as the narrator. She was observant, sincere, and honest. The book, written like a journal, has her recounting her days’ events, recording the events happening in the moment, and documenting all her thoughts and feelings about Madeline and her life. The book is rich in emotion, but it’s not so terribly angsty that it becomes boring to read. The reader also maintains a level of curiosity about Ellie throughout the duration of the book. For almost the entirety of the story, it’s unclear to the reader whether Ellie is mentally ill, still suffering from the car crash, or if there truly is something paranormal happening around her. As Ellie delves deeper into her complex relationship with Madeline, it becomes clear that there is a certain other-worldliness about the events that occur around them.

Barbara Stewart’s The In-Between is a dark, twisted story of love and obsession. The writing is smart, poetic and insightful. The story is rich in imagery, the characters diverse, and the plot engaging and suspenseful. I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of YA fiction, and anyone with a taste for the thrills of the paranormal. This was a fun, if rather dark, read, and I’ll count it as a good start to my year in reading!

Rating- 8.5/10

Advertisements

Sometimes the best letters go unanswered

Today’s review: Love Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira

Cover of Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Number of pages: 323
Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary/ Romance/ Coming of age/ Drama
Series: Standalone

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Goodreads.com

Fifteen-year-old Laurel is starting her freshman year at a new high school. For her, it is a chance at a new start, somewhere no-one knows her. Or her sister. It has been a year since Laurel’s sister, May, died, and Laurel is still struggling to cope with the loss. Her sister had been everything to her; mentor, hero, best friend. May had protected her from their parents’ fights, sneaking Laurel out of her window to make fairy spells in their backyard to make everything bad go away. May had danced and sang until their parents had forgotten about their anger and learned to laugh again. And then May had died and Laurel was left with a hole in her heart and no one to turn to.

For their first assignment, Laurel’s English teacher has the class write a letter to a dead person as a way of introducing themselves and learning to write expressively. Laurel decided to write hers to Kurt Cobain, whom her sister had loved when she was alive. After the first, Laurel begins to write them regularly, and to a wider variety of people. For her, it becomes her way of coping with and moving on from her sister’s death. It is also a way for her to explore her new-found feelings for Sky; the cute boy in the leather jacket. As she progresses further in her relationship with Sky and delves deeper into the darkness of her own past, Laurel is forced to shed her innocence and face the challenges of the adult world and all the heartbreak that comes with it.

I really liked this book and I had been looking forward to reading it. I grew to like Laurel as the protagonist of this novel, although at times I felt she was a bit naive in light of some of the situations that occur. What more than made up for this however, were some of her musings that occurred throughout the book that were positively poetic, for example this from one of Laurel’s letters to Judy Garland; “Judy, I read that you said your first memory was music. Music that fills up a home. And one day, suddenly the music could escape through a window. For the rest of your life, you had to chase it” . There are quite a few like this throughout the book, and I thought they were absolute gems. I loved how Laurel was so observant, so patient, and so understanding. She wasn’t quick to judge, even when she experienced things she had never before seen in her life, and she always tried to see things from other people’s perspectives.

But one of the things that I didn’t like was Sky. I got a very Edward-Bella impression about their relationship most of the time, and frankly, I found him to be a rather dislikable character. For the most part, he was moody, changeable, and sometimes even downright rude. And Laurel went on and on about him. Like, how about you focus on moving on from your sister’s death? Or helping your best friends Hannah and Natalie realise their feelings for one another? I don’t really want to hear about how “his voice sounded disapproving in a way that I liked” (and what does that even mean?). I felt there was too much focus on their relationship that was, frankly, rather unhealthy, and that really took away from Laurel’s journey to self-acceptance and the role of her true friends.

The book did, however, appeal to the lover of 70s-90s artists in me, especially when Laurel would include aspects of each of their lives in her letters, then relate her recounts to them on a smaller scale. Although these connections were occasional (some felt completely unrelated, which made some parts a bit confusing), when they did occur they were quite effective. It was good to read about how these artists were still maintaining relevance in the lives of younger generations, and I liked how their love for the same artists brought Laurel and her friends together.

All-in-all Love Letters to the Dead was a beautiful, terribly sad story of learning to live with loss, growing up, and dealing with the challenges that life throws at us. Laurel was an observant narrator, but I felt that she needed to be more of her own person, rather than always being influenced by those around her. For the most part, Ava Dellaira really tackled the issues in the book well, seeing as they are incredibly complex and sensitive, and she addressed so many at once. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in Young Adult drama, but if something light-hearted is what you’re after, I’d advise you to look elsewhere because this one was feels-y.

Rating- 7.5/10

What is it like to lose everything?

Today’s review: The Book of Jonas

Author: Stephen Dau

Cover of The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

Publisher: Plume (The Penguin Group)
Number of pages: 258
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Coming of age/War
Series: Standalone


Jonas is fifteen when his family is killed during an errant U.S. military operation in an unnamed Muslim country. With the help of an international relief organization, he is sent to America, where he struggles to assimilate-foster family, school, a first love. Eventually, he tells a court-mandated counselor and therapist about a U.S. soldier, Christopher Henderson, responsible for saving his life on the tragic night in question. Christopher’s mother, Rose, has dedicated her life to finding out what really happened to her son, who disappeared after the raid in which Jonas’ village was destroyed. When Jonas meets Rose, a shocking and painful secret gradually surfaces from the past, and builds to a shattering conclusion that haunts long after the final page. Told in spare, evocative prose, The Book of Jonas is about memory, about the terrible choices made during war, and about what happens when foreign disaster appears at our own doorstep. It is a rare and virtuosic novel from an exciting new writer to watch.

-Goodreads.com

 

The Book of Jonas is the story of Middle-Eastern youth Jonas as he struggles to adjust to American life after being rescued from his ruined village that was destroyed after a U.S military operation went wrong. After it is discovered that Jonas suffers from lapses in his memory about what ensued at the time of the incident, he is sent to a therapist in an attempt to recover the memories he has lost. Aside from this, Jonas is sent to live with a host family, and attends high school with their children. Jonas, as it turns out, is a brilliant student, achieving the highest results in all of his classes with ease and minimal effort. He becomes fascinated with the workings of Christian religion, spending hours at a time researching everything he can about God and his Will. As is to be expected, Jonas is singled out by other students, and is targeted for the colour of his skin, his funny accent, and his quiet nature. When pushed over the edge however, Jonas is unafraid to fight back, and soon earns a reputation as someone to be admired and slightly intimidated by.

As his sessions with his therapist, Paul, ensue, Jonas is unsure as to whether he simply cannot recall anything that happened before he was sent to America, or whether something deep inside him is refusing to release his knowledge of what happened. Due to his continuing brilliance, Jonas receives a scholarship and attends the University of Pittsburgh, where he meets his first love, Shakri. Shakri urges him to delve into his past and make more of an effort to find out what happened to him, and Jonas discovers the existence of Christopher Henderson who, according to therapist Paul, was the soldier who saved Jonas’ life when his village was destroyed, but has now gone missing. In an attempt to find out more about his past and heal his emotional wounds, Jonas meets with Rose, Christopher’s mother, and it is this event that releases his memory. He starts to open up about what happened after his village was destroyed.
His new knowledge however, takes it’s toll, and Jonas soon finds himself resorting to comfort in alcohol, and ends up on the wrong side of the law. With the help of his therapist Paul and the information that Rose Henderson has shared with him, Jonas is able to piece together his life, his identity, and what really happened to him and Christopher Henderson the night his village was destroyed.

I enjoyed this book and I’m glad that this was the book that I randomly pulled of the shelf of my local library. I found it very interesting to read about not only war, but its after-effects, particularly from the point of view of a teenager. It was sad to witness how someone as brilliant and gifted as Jonas could be pulled down into the depths of his trauma, and to resort to drinking away his problems, but I suppose it’s understandable why someone would do that if they had lived through what Jonas had.

I did find Dau’s storytelling a little disconcerting at first. It would alternate between present-day Jonas, Jonas when he lived in the Middle East (this was before he changed his name and was known as Younis), the events of Jonas’ therapy sessions, Rose Henderson’s point of view, and Christopher Henderson’s journal entries. The amount of jumping around made the story hard to follow at some points and I became surprised by the amount of time that had passed, but it got easier the further I read.
I also felt that some of the supporting characters were a little underdeveloped, and could have contributed to the story a little better, like Jonas’ friend Hakma, and even Shakri, who we really don’t find out all that much about. The story did tend to drag at some points as well for example, there is a whole chapter (granted, it’s only two and a half pages) dedicated to Jonas filling out forms. It was things like this that I felt were rather unnecessary.

Aside from these little things, I ultimately found the story very enjoyable. Jonas’ very thoughtful, detailed observations were fascinating to read, and the contrast between his life in the Middle East and America made for interesting reading. The beginning of the story brings with it a lot of confusion about where it is going and what it is about, but by the mid-way through to end of the book, everything makes sense, and the reader finally discovers what happened to Jonas on that fateful night, although what you find out is not exactly pleasant.

I would definitely recommend this book for others. It sheds new light on the horrors of war and how it pushes humans outside of their boundaries to do extraordinary and unthinkable things.

Rating- 8/10

 

I am the space between my thighs…

Today’s review: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Cover of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: The Text Publishing Company (Melbourne). First published by Viking, Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Number of pages: 280
Genre: Fiction/ Young Adult/ Contemporary
Series: Standalone

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls. “Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another. I am that girl. I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through. I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit. In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.
– Goodreads.com

I stumbled across this book in my school library whilst waiting for the printer to eventually wake up and print my assignment (it takes like, a gazillion years). Bored, I began scanning the shelves, saw the title and went “ooh, Wintergirls. Sounds… cool (haha bad pun)”. I pulled it out, immediately loved the artwork on the cover, and found myself incredibly intrigued after reading the blurb.

Wintergirls is told from the perspective of 18-year-old Lia Overbrook, an anorexic cutter who, on top of battling her extremely low self-esteem and depression, is also now struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend Cassie. Lia and Cassie had not spoken to each other in months but when Lia is informed that Cassie’s body has been found in a motel room, Lia discovers that Cassie left 33 messages on her phone the night she died. Overwhelmed with immeasurable guilt and a further-fueled hatred of herself, Lia, who is currently undergoing rehabilitation from an extreme case of anorexia, begins to relapse into her old ways, letting her emotions consume her, and letting the memory of Cassie hang over her, accusing her of being responsible for her death. When Lia and Cassie were still friends, they both made promises to become the skinniest girls in school and soon, this promise became a contest fuelled by desperation and self-hate. Now that Cassie is dead, Lia is more determined than ever to reach her “ideal weight” of 80 pounds (36 kg), but she is also determined to find out what happened to Cassie and what killed her. Lia’s journey leads her to Elijah, the handsome bike-messenger boy with strange visions, who found Cassie’s body in the motel room on the night she died. Slowly, Lia pieces the puzzle together to reveal the horrifying reality behind Cassie’s death, the discovery of the truth sending Lia’s own deteriorating mind spinning into madness.

Wintergirls was a very dark, hard-hitting story that really brought to light the tremendous impact a disorder such as anorexia can have on an individual. I loved Anderson’s writing style and narration through Lia; at some points, I felt as though I was reading poetry!  There is a lot of use of metaphor and personification throughout the novel which I felt really made the story that much more engaging to read. I think that one of my favourite lines was: “Spiders hatch and crawl out of my belly button, hairy little tar beads with ballerina feet. They swarm, spinning a silk veil, one hundred thousand spider thoughts woven together until they wrap me up in a cozy shroud… The web locks us into place, staring at each other as the moon slithers across the sky and the stars fall asleep”. I mean god, the amount of imagery, personification, and metaphor in that one passage… it’s an English teacher’s dream!
As well as this fluent, poetic approach to writing, Anderson also weaves Lia’s troubled, more childlike inner thoughts throughout her writing. Lines are crossed out and alternative lines added in, and there is that constant small voice in the back of the mind which is constantly haunting Lia with “body found in a motel room… she called 33 times…” I thought this was a very interesting writing technique; to actually narrate all of Lia’s contradicting thoughts and descriptions, showing her suppressing what she really thought, and instead narrating what she was supposed to think.

Lia constantly recalls her early memories with Cassie throughout the book, which I felt really helped construct their relationship, and really made me feel so terrible for Lia and her situation as I became more familiar with her and Cassie’s relationship. I also loved Lia’s relationship with her step sister Emma, who was Lia’s sole incentive to remain on the brink of sanity for as long as she could, and how Lia sought comfort in her sister’s innocence to the reality of Lia’s mental and physical situation. I also liked how Elijah didn’t end up being the cliche love interest in this book, as I felt that to do so would have really taken away from the main purpose of the novel; to display the effects of anorexia on an individual.
There could have been a bit more depth to some of the minor characters in the books however, such as Lia’s mum and step mum, whom I both felt were a bit shallow in terms of emotional connection to the story. Lia’s mum, Chloe, was so caught up in going to almost extreme measures to ensure the improvement of her daughter’s health, that she continually failed to see how her efforts were only hurting Lia more. Similar could be said for Lia’s step mum, Jennifer, who I felt could have tried to be more sympathetic to Lia, knowing the emotionally painful situation she was in.

This was a very hard book to read. I don’t mean it was unengaging or distasteful, because it absolutely was not, but the theme of anorexia portrayed in a way as realistic as Laurie Halse Anderson has managed to do made for some dark, difficult reading, and I often fell into lapses of depression after reading and had to take short breaks away from it. Disorders such as anorexia are too often pushed under the rug, or labelled as something to “get over”, but in Wintergirls, Anderson really emphasises how anorexia is certainly not something that is easily overcome, and that it is even more a state of mentality than a physical deterioration. Through Lia, Anderson is able to represent just how anorexia can torture a person, and her raw, powerful narration brings light to that unknown element about anorexia and the mind games it plays.

Whilst this book is heavy on the soul, I do definitely recommend reading it, as it perfectly portrays an issue in today’s society that is far too often dismissed.

Rating: 8.5/10

Limbo

My heart feels light and the sound of drunken singing fills my ears. I know I shouldn’t be driving; it was a wild night and I’ve had a few too many, but I’ve had less than the others. The football game was brilliant. The atmosphere was buzzing and energetic, the fans were even more so. Another chorus of Queen’s We Will Rock You is started up and soon we’re all singing along, laughing and hugging, not a care in the world. I try hard to concentrate on the road, but it’s not easy when Johnny keeps trying to kiss me in a wild drunken frenzy from the passenger seat, or when Angie’s screeching laugh is filling my swimming head. I take my eyes off the dark road for just a second to try and shake Johnny off of me and when I turn back, it’s too late. The truck slams into us at full speed. It’s blinding lights fill my eyes and the sound of crunching metal and screaming rattles my intoxicated brain. My head slams forward and cracks against the windshield, the whole world is rocking and when it comes to a stop, I feel my own warm blood trickling down my face. It hurts to move my head, but I see that my friends are all unmoving. Then the blackness overpowers me.

I awake suddenly, gasping for breath, my head pounding. In my confusion, I leap to my feet and dizziness overwhelms me, forcing me to the ground again. I take a few deep breaths and slowly contemplate my surroundings. Everything is white. The ground is smooth and white, the sky overhead is the exact same shade of white. It’s almost impossible to tell where the horizon ends and the sky begins. I slowly rise to my feet, turning a full circle on the spot. There are objects in the sky that look like suns; six of them. Their light is bright and blinding and hurts my eyes, making my head throb. My heart begins to beat faster and my palms begin to sweat. Where am I? I remember where I was. I had been on the highway… we’d crashed… so where is the car? Where is the road? Where am I? I know I can’t stay here. I have to start walking… in any direction. I need to find someone, anyone who can tell me what the hell is going on and how I ended up here. But which way do I go? I slowly turn again, looking for somewhere to start. I see something dark on the horizon. Was that there before? It looks like buildings… maybe there are people. As I start to walk towards the objects on the horizon, I run a list of possible places I could be; Am I in a coma? Could this be a dream? Am I dead? Is this what it’s like to die? My mind is so occupied that I don’t notice the buildings getting closer. When I finally pull myself together, I find myself at the entrance to what looks like an abandoned city. The buildings look modern, but are covered in dust and grime, as though they have been exposed to the elements without any maintenance. But surely, there can’t be any elements here? There’s nothing else here! I call out into the depths of the city, my voice echoes down the narrow streets. Perhaps there’s a clue in here, something that will tell me who lived here before, and maybe where they are now… I begin my search of the city, walking down alleyways, peering into windows and rattling locked doors. Suddenly, a flash of pain courses though my body; a pain which I had never felt before in my life. It’s fiery hands claw at my chest, bringing me to my knees, tears streaming down my face. I let out a scream that scrapes the insides of my throat, as images of blood and violence and death flash through my mind. As the pain subsides, I look behind me and see it. Hurtling across the flat white plains is a monstrous mass of black smoke and vapor, constantly shaping and changing. And it’s heading straight for me. My heart racing, I turn and sprint as fast as I can into the depths of the city. I fly around corners and scamper through alleyways, desperately trying to put as much distance between me and that- that thing as I can. I see a fire escape ladder ahead of me, leap to grab it, and pull myself up. I flatten myself against the edge of the building’s rooftop as the smoke-monster passes by below me. I can see it better from here now. Different shapes are born from its surface; skulls, snakes, spiders, giant moths… it’s horrible. Sweat pours from my forehead and down my face as I struggle to catch my breath and try not to cry. What was it? Why did it want me? I figure that the rooftops are the safest place to be at the moment, so I make my way across them. The gaps between the buildings are rather wide, but for some reason I can clear them easily.

I wander the rooftops aimlessly for a while, unsure of what to do next. I could stay up here and risk starving to death, or I can risk being caught up to by the smoke-monster. My decision is made for me when the pounding returns to my head again and a piercing ringing fills my ears. This time, images of needles, machines, and people in masks fill my head as I struggle to recalibrate my senses. Across the rooftops in the distance, the smoke-monster is careering towards me at a tremendous speed. In my panic, I run to the edge of the rooftop and leap for my life. I hit the ground hard, but I am unhurt. I take off out of the city and across the white plains. I feel the smoke-monster’s presence behind me. It’s cold and robs the air from my lungs, drinking in my fear, my hate, my worry, my longing. My legs are getting tired, and lack of oxygen is making me light headed, but I can’t stop. I mustn’t stop. I will not let that thing get me. I will not give in.

“I will not give in!” I scream at it as I hurtle across the never-ending plains. I can still feel it behind me, so close to me, yet never within reach. Ahead of me, I see something. The whiteness of the horizon does not look so far away anymore. It looks solid… like a wall. I see the outline of a door through my dizziness and pounding head and I stagger towards it. I dare not slow down, lest the thing behind me catches up. I reach for the handle and turn.

I burst through the door, slamming it shut behind me. I look down to see a few black, smoky tendrils, feebly licking around my ankles, displeased that its prey had outrun it. I turn away from the door. I know I won’t need to worry about the monster anymore. The sight that reaches my eyes when I turn around takes me by surprise. I find myself in a clean, white room. An assortment of machines stand in a circular pattern around a table. The table is surrounded by doctors in white masks and wearing blue scrubs. On the table is a body…

My body.

I stare down in blind shock at my lifeless figure lying on the operating table. The doctors take no notice of me whatsoever as they rush around, injecting things into my body, removing things, sewing things, pumping things. I snap my fingers in one of their faces. No response. I realise that I must be invisible. Or a ghost. But I’m not dead. One of the monitors is showing my heart rate. It’s dangerously shallow. I realise now where I am… or where I was. I was in limbo. I’m not quite alive, but I’m not quite dead. Running forever from the fate that was soon to catch up with me. Now I have a choice. I could simply walk away; go back through the door and face what’s waiting for me on the other side. Or I could keep fighting. I’ve come this far… why should I give in now? I close my eyes and breathe out slowly.

Sound rushes into my ears as I gasp for breath. I hear the impatient beeping of the machines. I hear the doctors crying in relief as I take my first breath again.

“She’s okay!”

“She’s alive!”

“Someone check her responses!”

One doctor shines a light in my eyes as another clicks their fingers next to my ears.

“Responses normal. She’s good.”

Once again I close my eyes and let the blackness swallow me. When I awake, I find myself in a warm bed with soft pillows. The nightstand next to me is cluttered with flowers, cards, and chocolates. I smile to myself. I know I will die one day… but today is not that day.