If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications—and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly's few friends think that her parents are divorced—but they're not. Connelly's father died when she was two, and she doesn't know how. If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn't be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair's friendship grows, Connelly learns that it's the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful. This lovely and memorable debut by Alyssa B. Sheinmel contains many of the hallmark themes found in young adult literature—friendship, coming of age, finding a place to belong, and overcoming the death of a loved one. Emotionally moving from start to finish, The Beautiful Between introduces a strong new voice to the genre, a voice with a long future ahead of it.
Sheinmel makes an impressive debut with an absorbing tale of unlikely friendship, loss, and family secrets. Connelly, a quiet junior at a prestigious New York City high school, is shocked when the school's "crown prince" rich, popular Jeremy Cole offers to tutor her in physics if she'll help him with SAT vocab. She finds out his motives aren't entirely altruistic, though neither are they malicious. His sister has been diagnosed with leukemia, and he believes Connelly can provide insight into how to survive the loss of a loved one, since Connelly's father died when she was two years old. Studying together and taking late-night smoking breaks in front of Connelly's apartment building, the teens build a trust strong enough to withstand idle gossip, family tensions, petty arguments, and tragedy. Told from Connelly's perspective, the novel hints at romance and is shrouded with the mystery of Connelly's father's death, an event she can't remember or bring herself to ask her mother about. Her revelation and the book's sad conclusion are somewhat predictable, but the intriguing and well-defined characterizations will keep readers riveted. Ages 12 up.