Book Review: Through to You by Emily Hainsworth
When we first meet Camden Pike, he is barely functioning as his world is now empty having lost the one person, Viv, that meant everything to him. Two months ago they wrapped their car around a pole and Cam was the only one to survive. Cam is walking through a fog of grief that oozes off the page and is both achingly beautiful and palpable:
“My house is empty. I wander through room, unsure of where I want to be until I realize I don’t want to be anywhere. Every room has a hole in it p where a chair was, a stereo, a set of books, a closet of clothes. Mom never filled them in after Dad left, and I guess I didn’t care. But since the accident, all I can see are the holes in things.” – p 10
“My body aches with memory” – page 18
Cam has a habit of visiting the shrine that has been built up in Viv’s honor and it is here that our sci-fi element kicks in. At first, Cam thinks he is hearing voices. Then he thinks he is being visited by an unfamiliar ghost (she does become important). But the truth is, a door has somehow opened at the pole that leads to another world that seems kind of like the one he lives in, but is slightly different in subtle ways, the most obvious being that in this world Cam has died and Viv lives. But who is the Viv in this world? Slowly the evidence seems to suggest that she may be quite different then the one he loved.
I can’t say a lot more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil the thrilling twists, but your mind is probably already churning out some possible scenarios and you’re thinking Pet Cemetary or boiling rabbits from Fatal Attraction. Although the twists are not unsurprising, Through to You is a very satisfying read that successfully, and often times beautifully, tells the story that Hainsworth set out to tale. In some ways it is the very simplicity of the story that makes it beautiful; Hainsworth tells Cam’s emotional arc with a precision that resonates with emotional realism that anyone who has loved and lost can identify with.
At its heart, Through to You is a story about grief. Grief is the hardest part of life. When I was a junior in high school, my best friend died in a car accident. I remember clearly sitting in the parking lot seething with anger as I watched our school friends laugh and eat pizza inside the parlor. We had just come from her funeral, how could they be laughing? And yet, over time, we all find a way eventually to move on. But what if we had the chance to step into another world where our loved one still lived: would it be the same? Is it cheating? What happens when we don’t deal with the grief that we need to?
So I said at the beginning that Through to You was described as a “Sci-Fi Romantic Thriller”. It is true that there is a sci-fi element, but this is truly more of an emotional (almost contemporary) story where the science fiction element is a vehicle. Think Every Day with David Levithan and the body jumping or Fracture by Megan Miranda. True sci-fi readers will probably be unsatisfied, but your paranormal romance and contemporary readers will be satisfied readers.
In many ways Through to You is a simple story, it is both short and not overwhelming with a large number of characters, which was refreshing in this day and age of fantasy/dystopian epics that have a million characters and multi-volumes. And yet is still manages to be deep, moving and meaningful while providing some steadily growing chills. I give it 4 stars and recommend it. I was surprised by how much I liked this book and how much discussion it provided. Why 4 stars instead of 5? There are parts of this book, especially the beginning, that can be slow moving and although grief itself is a slow moving process, I think some teen readers will have a hard time with the early pacing. And as I said, there are no real surprises about the differences between the two worlds, but it is the beautiful writing and the story of Cam deciding to embrace his grief that really matters here.
One final element that will stand out to adults although teen readers may not be able to catch on to it until later is that idea that, sometimes, things are not truly what we perceive them to be, especially in the ferocity of teenage love. For example, maybe at some point, if she never became a vampire and moved on, Bella from Twilight would look back on her high school relationships and, with distance and perspective, come to realize that in some ways it wasn’t what she thought it was. Or that if they had taken one subtle little different path on the road it could have become A instead of B. That, too, is a part of Cam’s story here. The little differences in the two worlds show him that little changes along the way change the stroy arc and lead him to both reconsider what he thought about himself, Viv and their relationship and to make some changes in his world so that his story plays out differently. And that too is part of the healing journey. Through provoking and powerful, this is a moving read.
Through to You by Emily Hainworth is published by Balzer + Bray, October 2, 2012. ISBN: 9780062094193
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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