Book Review: Slide by Jill Hathaway
Slide was a very quick read for me. I found the narrative easy-going and the story progresses along nicely. There were no dull moments, and several well placed twists to keep you guessing, although as an older reader, I would have enjoyed a slightly darker novel.
Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.
Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.
Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.
For a short book, Slide does feature quite a few heavy topics. Murder for one, but many of the characters are also dealing with different stages of grief, attempted sexual assault, bullying, anorexia, teen pregnancy, suicide and caring for a disabled parent. Somehow, Slide never feels overly dark, I think because it doesn’t try to explore all of these issues in great depth but remarks upon them subtly instead.
Slide handles grief particularly well. As a family, Vee, her young sister Mattie, and her father are still very much feel the loss of Vee and Matties’ mother five years previously.
It’s wrong that death is a loss. It’s something you gain. Death is always there, whispering in your ear. It’s in the spaces between your fingers. In your memories. In everything you think and say and feel and wish. It’s always there.
Slide’s strongest scenes were between these three characters. Vee helping her sister deal with the loss of a friend, sharing her memories of their mother, understanding her father’s grief, were all poignant moments. Hathaway is at her best when writing about the quiet, intimate moments and there were several small quotes that resonated with me.
Vee’s ability to slide into other people’s heads for a few moments at a time was quite an interesting plot device but not one that is really explored all that much in the book. How or why Vee is able to do this isn’t ever explained (though there are hints it is hereditary), which will no doubt bother some readers, but didn’t strike me as being particularly important. The driving force of Slide is the identity of the killer, where they might strike next and whether Vee can see enough to stop them. This was what drew me to the book in the first place and Hathaway’s debut is a classic murder mystery, with several convincing suspects and the odd plot twist here and there. I wasn’t able to guess the killer’s identity until quite near the end. However, this might have more to do with who the killer turned out to be. Unfortunately, I felt it was the least likely culprit, with the least convincing motive. What started out as a well-paced ‘whodunnit’, grounded in reality (in spite the protagonist’s strange ability), looses its way by the end of the story.
Vee felt like an ordinary high school girl (with the tendency to be quite rude at times), which is a good thing. There was a sense of sadness and weariness about Vee and a willingness to give people a second chance that endeared her to me, so it was frustrating to watch her push her closest friend, Rollins, away. Incidentally, Rollins was probably one of my favourite characters in the book, the kind of guy I wish was more common in YA.
Ultimately Slide was missing… something. It wasn’t as intense as I would have liked. The ending seemed quite haphazard and came to a disappointing resolution, but I did love the final few lines. Slide turned out to be a read-once kind of a book for me, but I am glad I read it, it has many things going for it. Just right for younger teenagers who are fans of contemporary murder mysteries, with a dash of paranormal thrown in.
*Many thanks to UK Book Tours and Harper Collins for making this available for review*