The Beautiful Between

The Beautiful Between

4.0 21
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (May)
From the Publisher
"Endearing, realistic and heart-wrenching, Sheinmel offers a thoughtful look at teens." —The New York Post

"Sheinmel makes an impressive debut with an absorbing tale of unlikely friendship, loss, and family secrets." - Publishers Weekly

"Satisfying and believable"- Kirkus Reviews

Full of small moments and quiet realism. - School Library Journal

VOYA - Laura Woodruff
Sixteen-year-old Connelly (Connie) Sternin lives with her mother and attends a selective New York school for the wealthy and privileged. Connie has never heard the story of her father's death and cannot ask her mother, so she invents an explanation: her parents are divorced, and her father lives somewhere in Arizona. All is well until a classmate, the "crown prince" son of the most aristocratic family in the city, seeks her out. Jeremy explains that his sister has leukemia, like Connie's father, and he wants to know more about Dr. Sternin's decline and death. Shocked, Connie hedges, eventually confiding in Jeremy and supporting him through his sister's illness. He, in turn, pushes her to discover the truth about her father. Highly psychological and nearly devoid of action, this first novel is saved by its main character. Connie, genuinely scarred by her family's secrecy, matures with Jeremy's help. Their friendship is especially refreshing because sex is not (yet) a part of the relationship. Although this belongs to the "death and dying" genre, it is more realistic and less depressing than most titles and will likely appeal to teen girls. Reviewer: Laura Woodruff
Children's Literature - Lauri Berkenkamp
Connolly Sternin thinks of herself as Rapunzel in the fairy tale version of high school she has created in her head: she is trapped in her Upper East Side apartment, studying for SATS and avoiding her mother, with whom she has been emotionally estranged since Connolly's father died when she was two. In Connolly's fantasy world, the handsome prince is Jeremy Cole, a rich, well-connected boy who is at the top of her high school's social food chain. When Jeremy surprisingly befriends Connolly one day at school, under the guise of helping her with physics homework, Connolly cannot believe her luck. Perhaps the handsome prince will rescue Rapunzel and they will live happily ever after. But Jeremy's reasons for befriending Connolly become clear when he divulges to Connolly that his sister Kate has leukemia; Jeremy has learned from the family doctor that Connolly's father had leukemia, too. This information is all news to Connolly, who has never once asked her mother how her father died, and apparently had not thought about it until she met Jeremy. Jeremy and Connolly forge an unlikely and unusual friendship, which seems to consist primarily of Jeremy assuming Connolly will be available to watch him smoke cigarettes late at night outside her apartment while he muses about his sister's health. Over the course of the novel, Connolly is determined to learn how her father died, but she never asks any of the members of her family. Rather, she and Jeremy agree that he will ask her father's doctor, who coincidentally is Kate's doctor, too. Disregarding all HIPPA regulations, Jeremy learns the tragic secret of Connolly's father's death, but cannot bring himself to tell her the truth. Connolly and he have an argument, and in the time they are not speaking together, Jeremy's sister dies. Jeremy and Connolly reconcile at Kate's funeral, and Jeremy insists that Connolly confront her mother about her father's death. In the end, Connolly's mother tells her the truth and Connolly reconciles herself to the real reason she and her mother have been estranged for so long. Reviewer: Lauri Berkenkamp
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Connelly Sternin's imagination is her best friend: It transforms her father's mysterious death into an easily understood acrimonious divorce, while her socially un-navigable swanky Manhattan prep school becomes a land of fairy tales. She is Rapunzel, imprisoned and sheltered in her high-rise apartment, while handsome Old Money scion Jeremy Cole is Prince Charming. Jeremy's offer of a tutoring exchange-physics for SAT vocabulary-surprises and flatters the socially invisible Connelly. Slowly, Jeremy's motivation becomes clear: His sister Kate is dying of leukemia, and somehow he knows that Connelly's father shared the diagnosis. Jeremy and Connelly share late-night cigarettes and increasingly deep confidences, yet somehow romance never enters their minds. Kate's death provides the impetus Connelly needs to demand that her mother tell her how her father died, and though the long-delayed confrontation is satisfying and believable, by the time it comes, readers may no longer care. First-time author Sheinmel leans too hard on the fairy-tale conceit and underdevelops her secondary characters, but her skill with dialogue and setting show promise. (Fiction. YA)
School Library Journal
Gr 9–11—Connelly Sternin, 16, moves through her New York City high school on cruise control. She is an average student who doesn't get into trouble, doesn't sit with the cool kids, and has a quiet home life. She fantasizes that she is living in a fairy tale and sees herself as Rapunzel, confined in an Upper East Side tower amid college applications and SAT scores. She sees wealthy Jeremy Cole as the prince of their school: loved and respected by all. What she doesn't see coming is a friendship with him based on tragedy—his younger sister has leukemia—and secrets—Connelly is preoccupied with learning how her father died. Jeremy knows more about her life than she does, and together they find the fortitude to face the present and the past. Although the narrative concerns death and lies, this first novel is not dark, but instead full of small moments and quiet realism. Connelly and Jeremy's friendship, which may turn into romance, is realistically portrayed as deepening over time. The story's pace is steady. Although the buildup to the climax—Connelly confronts her mother about her father—is better paced, and more creative and satisfying than the conflict itself, overall this is a terrific alternative to the clique-y high school novels that are all sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.—Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Beautiful Between

By Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2010 Alyssa B. Sheinmel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375961823

If you thought of high school as a kingdom--and I don't mean the regular kind of kingdom we have today, like England or Monaco, I mean those small ones in fairy tales that probably weren't kingdoms at all so much as they were nobledoms where the nobles considered themselves kings and granted themselves the right of prima nochte, that kind of thing--if you thought of my high school like one of those, then Jeremy Cole would be the crown prince. The crown prince who could choose from all the women in his father's domain--and not only choose them but also have them parade in front of him at, say, a dance, trying to catch his eye, hoping to be chosen.  

I don't know where I'd fall in the fairy-tale-kingdom hierarchy. I'm hardly Cinderella. I'm not beautiful and I'm not poor, and we have a cleaning lady who comes once a week, so I'm not stuck with the housework. Not Snow White either--the dwarfs always struck me as stranger than they were endearing, and wild animals don't look so much cute and cuddly to me as rabid and flea-ridden. Sleeping Beauty--not a chance. I'd be happy if I could just sleep through the night, let alone one hundred years. But I guess I could be Rapunzel; I do have long hair and I'm locked not so much in a tower by a wicked queen as in an Upper East Side apartment building by the SATs and college applications. Which are wicked enough for a hundred wicked queens and then some. Just my luck: Rapunzel, who wasn't a princess at all; Rapunzel, who--in at least some of the versions of the story--didn't have a happy ending.   

It's pretty easy, sitting in the cafeteria, to imagine I'm in a fairytale kingdom, to transform the girls one by one from trendy students into stately-attired ladies. Just take the prettiest girl in the room, the most popular, whose clothes hang on her so lightly that you know she could pull off a gown as easily as she can those tight jeans with that black tank top. Give the boys swords hanging from their belts, and turn their baseball caps into crowns. I guess high school cafeterias are kind of like a royal court: your chance to show off the latest fashions, to make an entrance, and, if you're lucky, to be invited to have an audience before the royals--you know, sitting at the cool table.  

I never sit at the cool table. I'm not at the nerds' table either, though I admit to having had a few dangerous weeks there in middle school when I was caught talking to myself in the stairwell. Now I know better, and keep my little reveries to myself.  

Sometimes I grab a bagel and run off to the library to work on my SAT words, but mostly I just sit at the table right smack in the middle of the room, the biggest table, the one where almost anyone could sit and fit in just fine. So it's not that Jeremy's choosing me was a total shock because I was a dork. I mean, I am a dork, in my own "Hey, have you read this amazing novel?" kind of way--but not in any of the ways that get you kicked out of the kingdom. I speak up in class, but not too much; I come to school with my skirt too short and a black coffee in hand (even though I add so much sugar that you can barely taste the coffee); I even sneak out of the building between classes from time to time and stand on the corner with the smokers, bitching about the latest history substitute. The popular girls tolerate me just fine; the cool boys never take note.  

So here I am, sitting at the central table in high court, staring at Alexis Bryant, who is sitting across from me and picking at a plate of limp lettuce. Alexis and I used to have playdates when we were younger, and the snacks at her house were always organic and whole-grain, while at my house, it was all Wonder bread and Coca-Cola. I wonder whether anyone else notices that Alexis is anorexic. Anorexia is so 1990s. In the twenty-first century, you only noticed when girls got skinny because they were doing a lot of blow. Even when celebrities got checked into clinics for eating disorders, rumors always flew that it was just a cover-up for their drug problems.  

Emily Winters sits down next to me, her bangle bracelets clicking against themselves. She has to take them off when we're in class because they're so loud, but she always wears them in between classes, before and after school, and at lunch.  

"Did you hear who Jeremy Cole is dating?"  

Like anyone else would when Jeremy's name is mentioned, I snap to attention. "No, who?"  

"Well, this is just a rumor, but I swear to God, I heard he hooked up with Beverly Edwards last weekend."  



"But she's so . . . She's not smart. Once she asked Ms. Jewett whether To Kill a Mockingbird was a hunting book."  

"She must have been joking."  

"She wasn't."  

"He can't be dating her."  

"Maybe he just hooked up with her."  

A new voice enters the conversation, a man's voice all high-pitched and pretending to be girly: "We should take him out back and beat the crap out of him."  

Emily and I look up--Jeremy is sitting on the other side of me. If my face is anything like Emily's, I'm blushing wildly. Emily pretends to be done eating and leaves me. Alone. With Jeremy Cole. I'm sure that everyone's watching; this table is right across from the food line, right smack in the center. Everyone can see.  

From the Hardcover edition.


Excerpted from The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel Copyright © 2010 by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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