I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.Between The Notes by Sharon Huss Roat
Published by Harper Collins on June 16, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life. And it isn’t pretty. Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them. As things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were . . . including herself.
I have always thought that while we are talking about diversity in books, we need to include income level as a part of diverse reading for all ages. In that way, Between the Notes was able to write a story that provided some insight into a family that is struggling economically. It did a pretty good job of showing the many, many ways income affords privilege that aren’t just limited to things you can buy. While I think there are a lot of books about teens who live in poverty, I haven’t seen as many stories about teen who are dealing with new poverty, which has been in the news a lot in recent years. By new poverty, I mean a teen whose family has been comfortably middle class (or higher) then find themselves in a much different income bracket very suddenly due to loss of income, high medical bills, or both. It was an excellent way to illustrate the discrimination and assumptions that people make about the poor. Ivy and her mother must go to the food bank to make ends meet and all of the things she took for granted are now luxuries they can no loner afford. As I said before, the privilege that income gives you isn’t just about the material things. It’s the appearance of income that grants that privilege, as well. As long as Ivy could keep this secret from her friends, she was one of them. If she lived in the right neighborhood, people treated her differently than if they knew she came from “the wrong side of the tracks”. I thought that was a really interesting aspect of the book. Of course, her assumptions about her own neighbors turn out to be wrong and she has to completely reevaluate her own prejudices.
Another big theme I sensed in this book was that of freedom from caring what people think of you Once Ivy was able to work toward that, she was able to slay some ghosts in her past and come to terms with what really mattered. Most importantly, she was able to see who her friends really were. I always like this in books, especially YA, because I think the fear of being ostracized socially is very real and realizing that you are deserving of genuine friendships is something that you never really stop learning. Ivy’s navigation of her new situation involves some romance, which was fun to read but also highlighted the divide between the haves and have nots. Her initial perceptions about the two guys she meets over the course of the story were both wrong, and while I wasn’t crazy about the love triangle aspect, it didn’t distract from the book. I do wish that there had been more interaction with her family. I wanted more from her parents and from their relationship with Ivy. Overall, though, I thought Between The Notes balanced a serious subject with an engaging story. It’s a book that I think will appeal to a broad range of YA readers. The focus on this family and their new normal will be something that many teens (and adults) will be able to relate to.