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Book Review: Slipping Reality by Emily Beaver

Here we are again, with another book review. The last one this week, I promise. And starting next week, I should be able to get back to my regular schedule. I have made a personal pledge to stop over-committing on book reviews, you see. I am going to have to cut back on books that I accept for review. This makes me sad because I enjoy reading new authors’ works and doing my part to help get the word out about up-and-coming authors – both because I hope to be one some day in the not-too-distant future and am looking to bank a little good karma now, and because I genuinely enjoy being able to talk about books that not everyone is seeing on the shelves at their local bookstore or library. It does mean that I will have more time to work my way through my own ever-increasing TBR pile though, and that’s a very good thing. Just ask The Husband… :)

With that said, let’s move on to today’s book review. We’re in YA land again. Kind of funny, when I think about it, that I ended up inadvertently bracketing a novel about aging with two novels about teens. Well, not funny-funny, just funny-odd. And maybe not even that, because as I always say, if I have to explain the funny, it probably isn’t. Anyway… My review copy of Slipping Reality was generously provided by the good folks at JKS Communications on behalf of the author, Emily Beaver.

Slipping Reality. The title literally says it all. Katelyn Emerson’s life kind of sucks. Seriously. Her brother – her best friend and confidant – is dying of cancer before her very eyes. She is stuck in an otherwise boring and average teenage world in which she is always and forever known as the-girl-with-the-sick-brother. So what does she do to deal? She develops her own reality. Literally. Complete with a boyfriend and a mentor who appear exactly when she needs them, to provide exactly what she needs – be it a vacation getaway, hugs and kisses, or someone to share their own encounter with death.

These are more than imaginary friends though. Katelyn’s versions have weight and substance. She physically interacts with them – or at least seems to. And yet, as the story develops, it becomes apparent that only she can see them. And one of them repeatedly tells her, straight out, that he isn’t real.

Wild stuff.

There is a very intriguing premise here and a very clever construct. The concept of mental retreat to deal with trauma isn’t new ground psychologically speaking, but the deft handling of it here, in a YA context, is – at least to me. I must confess that I felt that the story could have benefited from some additional editing (things jumped around a bit more than I like on a few occasions, and while sometimes this was okay because it seemed indicative of the scattered state of Katelyn’s mind, most of the time it was just confusing) and felt that the ending tied things up altogether too neatly. At least, I felt that way until I read the biographical notes at the end of the book and learned that Emily Beaver wrote the story when she was fourteen in response to her own brother’s illness and subsequent death. Wow.

I still think that a little more editing would have helped strengthen what was otherwise a strong concept. But now I’m glad to see a neat, tidy ending – because I hope it means that things came together for Emily in as neat and tidy a way as possible. Katelyn’s/Emily’s journey is a moving one. The shifts between realities are trippy and confusing at first – in the best possible way. For a while, I honestly did not know that Katelyn’s new friends weren’t “real” in the everyone-can-see-them sense. I entered into Katelyn’s reality for a little while, and while I may not have stayed right there throughout the course of the whole book (there were a few meandering plot points and a few spots where things got a little predictable for me), the time I spent there was unusual and surprising and sometimes altogether odd (in a good way). On behalf of your readers, thank you Emily, for your efforts to share your experiences with us.

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