aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

The Space Between Trees - a stellar YA

About the book
The Space Between Trees is about a lonely girl named Evie. Friendless, she lives on her daydreams about college dropout Jonah Luks ("Already I’m examining our conversations in my head, pulling out a sentence or two to keep for myself, fixing up the rest."), whose job it is to recover the bodies of dead animals in the woods. And then one day Jonah finds a body - and not just any body. It's Zabet (short for Elizabeth), a girl who was a sort of friend to Evie long ago.

Evie takes something from Jonah’s truck and hides it, something that will later reappear in story. It’s much like Chekov’s dictum: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired."

Evie says, "I can’t image what it was like, seeing her dead like that. But that’s not true; I can imagine exactly what it was like. I can imagine it twelve different ways, twenty different ways, seventy. In fact, I sort of wish I had seen it - the body - so that I could hold just one picture in my head."

I picked up this book because of the topic. But it's not a traditional mystery. It's more an examination of aftermaths. For that reason, it reminded me of The Lovely Bones. And the writing is just stellar.

"The diner is in the crotch of the highway entrance, the parking lot half full, no news fans, no police cars. Maybe they’re there anyway, undercover. The blinds in the diner are pulled won to keep out the afternoon sun. We sit in the car for a while. Hadley smokes a cigarette and I dial around the radio until she bats my hand away. she offers me the end of her cigarette, and I take it, pulling the smoke, not and terrible, into my ruined throat. Though I knew it’s bad, it feels good, like I’m purging something, some ancient medical remedy - bitter tinctures, leeches, herbs inhaled over a fire."

The cover
The cover looks nice online, but when you see it in person, it's clear the publisher spent some money on it:

What the critics are saying
“Evie’s raw honesty and the choices she makes make for difficult reading, but also a darkly beautiful, emotionally honest story of personal growth.”
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“This dark, suspenseful coming-of-age story builds to a violent climax. Evie is a skillful storyteller, perceptive and thoughtful, with a dry sense of humor...Readers who have ever felt like they don’t fit in will find it easy to empathize with the teen’s struggle to connect with others, and anyone can relate to the disillusionment that comes with growing up.”
--School Library Journal

“A good option for reluctant readers, this thrilling story shows many instances of lyrical language, and the pacing is pitch perfect.”

About the author
Katie studied English at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has an MFA in creative writing from the Michener Center for Writers at University of Texas in Austin. She now lives in San Francisco and is a writing instructor at Academy of Art University. Her husband has the marvelous name of Ulysses Loken. Her website is katiewilliamsbooks.com

I asked, Katie answered
A. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you? Bonus question: have you ever used it in a book?
K. The scariest things that have directly happened to me are accident related--a car crash, a near plane crash (smoke rolling through the cabin!)--but nope, these events haven't made their way into my fiction. At least, not yet. However, the seed for *The Space Between Trees did come from a real life scary event. When I was eleven years old, a teenage girl I knew--the daughter of a family friend--was murdered by a serial killer. Her death affected me deeply because suddenly it felt that the world wasn't safe, or to put a finer point on it, that growing up into a young woman wasn't safe. I wanted to recreate that feeling within Evie's character and explore what it meant to her and to Hadley.

A. Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
K. In fact, I'm a little claustrophobic, but only when people are jammed into small spaces. I quite like a small room. My most irrational fear stems from the answer up above. That serial killer's pattern was to stab women who were taking or had just gotten out of the shower. For years and years, well into my twenties, I was anxious while in showering. My bathrooms have always had bubbled up, water-damaged linoleum from where I'd peek out to make sure the killer wasn't standing on the other side of the shower curtain. Funnily enough, this fear has lessened since writing my novel. I usually don't think of my writing as therapy (at least not direct therapy), but maybe in this case it was.

A. Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie?
K. I like messy mysteries, ones that don't feel too tidy at the end. I loved *The Secret History* by Donna Tartt, and I really like Kate Atkinson's novels because they're so character driven. On the YA tip, I adored the TV show *Veronica Mars* because many of the qualities of a mystery--isolation, distrust, dangerous romance--echo the teenage experience.

A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will happen next. What question does your book ask?
K. One of my first writing teachers used to say the same thing, and it's always stuck with me. I've often talked about *The Space Between Trees* not as a "whodunit," but a "what was done here?" because the true mystery lies not in who the killer is, but in how the murder affects the characters. One of the questions the novel explores is a classic loss-of-innocence question: How does one make peace with the presence of evil in the world? But beyond that, there's a lot about storytelling: What are the powers and dangers of the stories we tell? Do we become the stories we tell about ourselves? And if so, when is that a good thing and when is it not so good?

A. Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure out?
K. Oh, many! And I hope there always will be! Let me offer something specific, though. I'm working on a new novel about a group of ghost kids stuck in the high school that they attended while they were alive, and so I've been thinking a lot about the big mystery: What's after death? But I've also been thinking about the figurative deaths we bring into our lives--the people we scorn out of closed-mindedness, the chances we deny ourselves out of fear. Why do we do that? And if we've been doing that, is it possible to undo it? To remake oneself? To have a second chance?

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