The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

I Dream of You and All The Things You Say (review: Slide by Jill Hathaway)

Jill Hathaway
Harper Collins 2012

Vee Bell hates having narcolepsy. What she hates more is sliding into the bodies of strangers when her narcolepsy takes hold – seeing things that are never meant to be seen. Including murder. When cheerleaders begin turning up dead left right and centre, Vee is convinced that their deaths are, in fact, intricately staged by their killer to look like suicide so she decides to use her unusual gift to uncover the truth and protect her family. But when the new guy at school starts to show more than a fleeting interest in Vee, things begin to get even more complicated.    

I must admit, the sliding idea threw me to begin with and on first receiving the book I thought that the concept as a whole seemed fairly weak. Thankfully, the skill of Hathaway’s story telling put me firmly back in my place.  Any item containing a strong emotional trace that is in Vee’s possession at the time of a narcoleptic attack can cause her to “slide” into the owner of that object – not allowing her to control that person’s actions but simply to be a passenger in their body for a short length of time.  Extraordinary to say the least.  However, as the story progresses, this becomes simply a facet of Vee’s being and not the sole focus of the book. Hathaway uses the “sliding” sequences sparingly and appropriately and also explores Vee’s father’s denial of her condition, allowing us to view the entire situation as more normal and accessible than the reader would first imagine. 

I found Vee to be an extremely strong narrative voice and, once we had pushed through the stereotypical high school scenes including LOTS of product placement (all the cool kids these days listen to The Smashing Pumpkins don’t ya know) I genuinely cared what happened to her. Witnessing Vee struggle with the death of her mother and the role she then adopts to shelter her younger sister truly pulls at the heart strings - Vee is an accomplishment in characterisation for a debut author.

In all honesty, Slide’s failings are few.  My biggest issue was the use of product referencing – of which there are more instances than any self-respecting soft drinks executive would stand for. Whilst Hathaway uses brand referencing to attempt to engage further with her key demographic, as is often common in young adult fiction, I feel that it comes across as cheap, amateur and completely unnecessary. But as this is my biggest gripe, I think Slide is doing pretty well.

Whilst Slide is an engaging and intriguing murder mystery, it is also an honest exploration of loss and belonging as seen through the unbiased eyes of a teenager. For a debut novel, the characters throughout are strong and believable, whist the plot is compelling to the close. Slide is far more interesting and complex than its marketing suggests and it is definitely worth picking up a copy. I shall definitely be keeping a weather eye for more of Jill Hathaway’s work on the horizon.  

This review has been brought to you by Polka Dot Steph. Slide is available in bookstores now. Thank you to Harper Collins for providing us with copy of this title to review.
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