*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author and Penguin Random House. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: With shades of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and FIVE FEET APART, THE WORLD BETWEEN US is a powerful and thought-provoking story about falling in love with someone a whole world apart.
Alice may be bed-bound, but every day Stream Cast brings the world to her. From the streets of Tokyo to a masterclass in video games, she experiences other people’s wild and exciting lives all without ever leaving her room.
But everything changes when Alice is introduced to a new streamer.
Rowan encourages Alice to stop watching, and start taking control. But Rowan has a secret he’s trying to hide from Alice – and from himself.
As Alice and Rowan build a bigger and more beautiful world together, their secrets threaten to tear them apart. Would you risk everything for love?
I am so excited about this book because the books which feature a main character with a chronic illness, especially one so very similar to my own (ME/CFS), are few and far between!
Alice is a teenager but spends most of her days trapped in bed, watching and listening to other people out there living life. She does get some visits from friends, but most of her vicarious living comes via a livestream where friends (of her parents, mostly) can show her their activities – cycling, exploring Japan, gaming. It is a safe way of experiencing what she is missing out on. Until she ‘meets’ her new streamer, Rowan, who is her age and has problems of his own. Rowan forces Alice to think about life and her illness in different ways, and eventually to step out of her comfort zone and back into life again.
That’s not to say, for any fellow spoonies reading this, that she meets a boy and is magically cured and able to go back to ‘normal’ teen life! The author clearly either has personal experience with chronic illness, or has done VERY extensive research, because Alice’s experience are realistic and raw, and there is no magic solution that will turn her from a very poorly person into a fully-recovered one over the course of the story.
What is important here, is the insight into how it feels to be trapped in a sick body, with no answers, no treatment, and no visibility on the outside of how broken you feel. Alice talks about spoons and pacing, losing friends/dreams/hobbies, feeling like a burden, sudden crashes/flares. Yet this isn’t a book about being ill. It is a YA love story.
So, despite all of her health issues, Alice meets Rowan. And through Rowan, we see another side of such issues, as he is a young carer with the weight of the world on his shoulders and no support. Their blossoming friendship and mutual support gives hope to young people in both situations, that there is help and understanding available if you can bring yourself to reach out for it.
This is an uplifting book – not in an ‘inspiration-porn’ way, but because I felt SEEN and represented and cannot overemphasise how good that feels. I immediately began planning to get my friends and family members to read this too, so they can get that glimpse into what life is like when you’re living from your bed.
My final thought is a pondering about the use of virtual reality and live streaming in the story: could this be the future for an enriched, bedbound life for the #MillionsMissing? I’d like to think so!
By the time I’m upright, I’m already out of breath.
Mum slides off my headphones. ‘How many spoons are we starting with today?’
‘Ten, I think,’ I say, although I said that yesterday and I was spent by eight.
Sitting up in bed = 1 spoon– Sarah Ann Juckes, The World Between Us
The World Between Us is available on Amazon right now!