by Dave Amaditz and
Welcome to December’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Barbara Stewart and her novel, The In-Between. After a car accident and a near-death experience, Ellie, the main character, is visited by a girl who becomes her best friend. She comes to question her sanity as she tries to decide if the friend is real or simply a part of her imagination.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – There’s a part in the story where Ellie, the main character, is in therapy after having a nervous breakdown. She’s on medication that silences the voice inside her, her best friend, Madeline. I thought this brief paragraph a great insight into the battle raging inside Ellie.
I need a priest or a medium. I don’t need a psychiatrist. I don’t need pills with names I can’t pronounce. Drugs won’t drive her out. I can’t see her or hear her, but she’s not gone. Not really. She’s just been closed off. It’s like we’re in prison, in adjoining cells in solitary confinement. I can hear her tapping on the wall…
Marcy – Ellie is at school near the track. The coach assumes she’s there to go out for the team and encourages her to run. Ellie feels stupid but can’t say no to the coach so she runs. This is one of the first steps that changes her life.
The girls were next, ponytails swishing, shorts swishing. They made it look so easy, so effortless, like they could go forever. Not me. My chest was ready to explode. My shins were on fire. I was sweating and gasping and my legs had started to wobble.
That was only the warm-up.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - This particular chapter ending comes from later in the novel. It’s another example of the battle Ellie fights to keep her sanity.
It’s like the new drugs are straps binding Madeline. They've got her wrapped up tighter than tight. I hear the straps straining, creaking. Someday there’ll snap. They can’t keep her tied up forever.
Marcy – This song was like Ritalin. It made him want to live. When he played it, I knew he was on the mend. The darkness was lifting. This is for you, Daddy.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – My favorite secondary character is Autumn. On many levels she’s as mysterious as Ellie. She’s a total misfit, not accepted by anyone in school, yet she’s drawn to Ellie, as Ellie is drawn to her. She seems to understand Ellie and accepts her as is. It makes me wonder what has happened to Autumn that would allow her to have those reactions.
Marcy – Like Dave, I really liked Autumn as well, but I’ll choose Coach Buffman, the cross country coach. He is so encouraging of Ellie to join the team even though she’s never run before. He has a matter-of-fact personality and accepts her without judgment. He encourages her to set goals and train hard. He’s a positive force in her dark world.
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – I chose this particular scene because it shows the two sides of Ellie. Ellie believes what is written below, but in reality, the kids in the school love her (love Madeline, her subconscious).
At school, I talk to no one. Not even Autumn. I can hear them whispering. They call me Eerie Ellie. They think I am deaf. They stare right through me. I am a ghost, haunting these halls with Madeline. The two of us are invisible.
Marcy – I thought this paragraph was poignant and gave a realistic look into dealing with a family member who battles depression.
I’ve seen him depressed. That’s nothing new. It happens every Christmas, and sometimes around his birthday. This is something different. Worse than the time he and Mom almost separated, or the time they were having money troubles and almost lost the house. Worse even than when I tried to die. It’s like all those other bouts of depression were just tremors, little quakes. Losing Mom is too big. The world is crashing down and all he can do is stand and watch, alone and terrified, powerless to go on living.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue? Coach Buffman, her cross country coach, tries to make a point to Ellie about the dangers of using drugs. He shows her a jar of two miniature pigs floating in cloudy liquid, one looking pretty normal, the other clearly deformed.
Dave – “This little piggy’s mother was pumped full of junk,” he said, swirling the jar with the deformed fetus. “This little piggy’s mother was clean.” He swiveled on his stool and returned the pigs to their shelf. “Got it?……”
Marcy – How true and funny!
Kylie told me what it stands for: Future Farmers of America. They sponsor Drive Your Tractor to School Day. Where am I living?
To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to: