Format: Hardcover, 496pp
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pub. Date: October 2007
In Betwixt, Tara Bray Smith’s young adult debut, the author carefully sets the scene, meticulously building and placing each character in their human environment. But normal teenage things such as parties, parents, and relationships take on new meanings when you realize that these three normal-seeming teenagers are anything but.
Morgan is the perfect girl. Perfect grades and perfect face but underneath the gloss she is cruel and cold-hearted. As you get to know her, as facets of her life are revealed, you realize that she could go either way. The light and the dark are both offering her an option. But Morgan is only out to get as much for herself as possible and in the end she’ll chose the highest bidder.
Nix is something special. Since his childhood he has been able to see a light around a person before they were about to die; depending on the intensity of the light he could tell how long they had left. Because of this he has spent a large portion of his life running from those he cared about. Along the way he has picked up a drug habit to keep the lights at bay and to try to be as normal as possible.
Ondine is a girl that seems to have it all. Not perfect like Morgan, who just happens to be intensely jealous of her, but with her dark skin and violet eyes she is a girl that just seems to have something extraordinary about her. When her parents move away for a year, leaving her in her hometown of Portland to finish out her senior year, Ondine throws a party to end all parties.
There the three that have so little in common come together. What they’ve been feeling for so long, the changes in their bodies and minds, is hinted at. A mysterious boy by the name of Moth tells the three to come to a huge rave, The Ring of Fire, where they will learn the truth about themselves. Nix, who has been running for so long, is told to bring Ondine who is easily lost; while Morgan, headstrong and defiant, finds her own way there.
But the Ring of Fire isn’t what any of them expect. The truths that they learn, the things about themselves that they come to realize are hard for them to swallow. Ondine flat out denies that she could be something other than human. But for Nix, who has been plagued for so long by the rings of light, is relieved that there is an explanation and that maybe, finally he can stop running. Morgan is the only member of the small group to embrace the idea wholeheartedly.
Betwixt is the first in a series, as the author says “The story has just started.” It starts a little slow but builds speed until you are hurtling toward the shocking end and I’m curious to see where Smith will take us next. The idea is solid; she introduces some new ideas and weaves in the old stand bys to create a story that leaves you asking questions. Betwixt is basically a new spin on the classic fairy tales involving changelings and fairies with all the modern trappings of drugs, sex, and rock‘n’roll.