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Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.
When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.
Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.
As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.
About the Author
Kimberly Sabatini is a former special education teacher who is now a full-time mom and a part-time dance instructor. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three sons. Touching the Surface is her debut novel. Visit her at KimberlySabatini.com.
Read an Excerpt
Touching the Surface
the other side
My body smacked the water. Thoughts scattered like a handful of beads dropped on a bare wood floor. I gasped for air and the current rushed in. My throat burned. Panic, thrashing, spots of light exploding in my head. Surrender. I sank softly down . . . until . . . fingers wrapped around my wrist, yanking me out of the water. As my head broke the surface it all became clear. I had died . . . again.
• • •
I stood on the end of the dock that jutted out toward the middle of the lake, fingering the silver eagle feather charm that hung in the hollow below my neck. The chain tangled in the short hairs below my ponytail. I was stunned and spots bounced in front of my eyes. Memories of Mel and my previous visits to the Obmil were rushing at me, but when it came to knowing who I was in my last life, all I could pull from the murky haze was the fact that I was a girl. A girl and a failure.
“Samantha? Is that really you?” Mel inhaled deeply and smiled, confirming that she knew exactly who I was.
It was starting to come back to me now. Everything around me looked the same as it had on my last two visits. I, on the other hand, was guaranteed to appear completely different. But that wasn’t unusual or problematic. A soul in the afterlife is recognizable. When you arrive at the Obmil in the last body you inhabited, it really isn’t much different than showing up at a family reunion in a different outfit. Everyone has a scent, a personal pheromone that overrides the optical illusion of the body they’re wearing. I’m told my soul smells a little like freshly cut wood and dark chocolate.
Mel took another deep breath and smiled at me, her face warm and welcoming. Slowly, the knot of information in my head was unraveling. It was Mel’s familiar hand that had pulled me from the water, out of my third life. That made sense. After all, she’d greeted me on my last two arrivals at the Obmil Center for Progression. Crappity, crap, crap—this meant I was here for the third time. I was stuck.
Mel studied me for a moment, then dropped her gaze and focused on recording my arrival in her notebook. She was big into journaling, but I also suspected she was giving me time to get my bearings. Her pen flew across the page as she wrote down tidbits of information. I could imagine her comments about my future. Lost soul—going nowhere fast.
I thought about it for a moment, realizing that I wasn’t Samantha anymore. That had been my name in my second life, the last time I’d taken a detour through the Obmil. I could feel the skin between my eyes crinkle up as I searched my memory. Who was I now?
On my first visit to the Obmil, my memories of life had been like Swiss cheese: baby Swiss, to be exact. There was more information present than missing. As a Second Timer the gaps were larger. It took a little longer for the memories to return, but with time, all the voids were filled. Honestly, it had almost been easy. No Delving was necessary for First and Second Timers. But I could still hear Mel’s voice warning me last time that remembering my past wasn’t my primary goal, I was supposed to be learning something deeper about myself during the process, to avoid ending up at the Obmil again. Why hadn’t I done it then? Being a Third Timer was humiliating. It was like failing gym because you refused to change for class. But as stupid as I felt for being in the afterlife again, I also knew I would have to find out what had led me here.
Last time, I’d tried doing what Mel suggested, letting one of my memories go deeper, but it had been like rubbing my heart against a cheese grater. In my second life, my husband had cheated on me. Repeatedly. Remembering that was painful enough, but then I discovered my response to his philandering. I’d thought I could fix it. I thought it was me. I was convinced that if I put my mind to it, I could be whatever it was that he needed. I stayed—in an all-star show of pathetic behavior—and then he dumped me. I’d wanted to kill myself and maybe would have, if it hadn’t been for my best friend. She’d saved me from doing something unforgivable.
What I’d learned from the exercise was that self-examination hurts. It had taken my breath away. I never wanted to do that again. Things were better on the surface.
Standing on the dock now, the memories from my previous life as Samantha raced past me like a train passing through the station. I was so engrossed in the slide show in my head that I sucked in my breath when the recollections suddenly stopped short at the end of my second life. Who was I now?
Mel’s hand steadied my elbow and I knew without a doubt that this time around, things were different. I was empty. There weren’t any significant memories from my third life for my mind to grasp. The whole thing was one big, blank hole. I didn’t know my own story. It was the Obmil’s way of forcing my hand, upping the ante.
“Samantha?” Mel waved her hand in front of my face.
I felt a small ping. Like the wink of a firefly, one small memory shot across my mind. “It’s Elliot. Elliot Turner,” I answered.
“Elliot . . .” She rolled the name around on her tongue, looking me over from head to toe. “You’re younger than you were on your last visit. Not as curvy, either.”
I hugged myself, trying to make my own acquaintance, more small details starting to emerge. I squeezed tighter, attempting to reconcile the changes between my body as Samantha and the new me—Elliot. My hands and arms crushed my chest and sides. My new shape wasn’t a roller-coaster ride, that was for sure. Leaning over, I found my reflection in the smooth water of the lake. Seventeen was a lot younger than forty. I studied my face. It was plain compared to Samantha’s. The new me appeared forgettable. I turned away from the water.
Mel tilted her head to the side. “How was your trip in?”
Sarcasm? I wasn’t sure where that came from. Maybe it was my first clue to my new personality.
Mel paused for a second, maneuvered her mane of frizzy red hair out of the way and gave a chuckle. Everyone who came to the Obmil through a waterway was dry as a bone when they exited. It was one of the perks of being dead. There were others. The last time I’d been here I’d dropped in from the sky. Cause of death: plane crash due to mechanical failure. Luckily, high-impact landings were about as painful as water entries were wet.
Searching Mel’s sympathetic eyes, the full realization of being a Third Timer crashed over me like a wave. Without thinking, I flew into her arms.
“I don’t remember anything at all this time.” Small hiccups bounced my shoulders up and down. I remembered my first two lives, but my life as Elliot felt as if it was tucked away, someplace long forgotten, and no one had given me a map to find it. I buried my face in the crook of Mel’s neck where she always smelled the strongest of lavender and peppermint.
“Sshh . . .” Mel crooned in my ear. “It’s okay. There’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. I know you thought you’d figured it out last time, but I did try to warn you. It takes more than just touching the surface.” She squeezed my shoulder and smiled. “It’s fine, it wasn’t meant to be. Besides, if you’d gotten it right, I wouldn’t have the chance to see you again.”
I sniffed once or twice, allowing myself to feel safe for a moment, wrapped in her arms and her confidence.
“Enlightenment is highly overrated,” I said, pulling back and shrugging my shoulders. I thought about the cheese grater pain of recollected memories and deeper emotions. I shuddered. “I’m not in a rush anyway. Staying here isn’t so bad—I’ll just hang around with you for a while.”
“You don’t want to do that,” Mel snapped.
I looked up in surprise. She was usually as even-tempered as they come.
“Listen, Elliot, I’m not really supposed to interfere too much with a soul’s personal journey. I’m simply a guide. But you should know that there are consequences for lingering too long at the Obmil. It’s okay to take all the time that you need if you’re actively working toward your growth plan, but eternal avoidance isn’t an option.”
“What kind of consequences?” I asked, noticing how her mouth was a thin hard line.
“It’s—let’s just say the consequences can be hellish.” She shifted her gaze away from mine.
“So, what you’re saying is that there really is a he—” Mel cut me off with a sharp stare before I could finish. Everyone at the Obmil was always speculating. Do all souls move forward after their time here, or are there other options—less pleasant options?
Mel cleared her throat. “I’m just saying that the best way to handle being a Third Timer is to take Julia’s approach.”
Mel gave herself a light thunk on the head. “Sorry. Julia is Emma.”
Emma. My best friend in life and the afterlife. During my first life she’d also been a he. In fact, we were eighty-year-old twin bachelor brothers named Arty and Jim. We’d both died in our sleep and woke up in “twin” beds at the Obmil.
During my second life as Samantha, Emma was my best friend. We’d met at a divorce support group. She’d found me when I was at the end of my rope. We were on our way back from a retreat when our plane went down. Twice we’d been in the same life and afterlife together.
“When did she get here? Is she my age? What does she look like? Does she remember her last life? Has she started Workshop yet?” I would’ve kept going but Mel had a funny expression on her face, like she was sucking on something sour.
“What? What’s going on?” I dug my nails into the palm of my hand, but nothing happened. I glanced down, realizing I no longer had Samantha’s perfectly manicured fingers. I fought the urge to yank at a hangnail with my teeth.
“Going—Julia Going.” Mel stumbled over her words. “That’s her last name. And, well, she isn’t in my Workshop this time.” The corners of Mel’s mouth turned down ever so slightly.
“What do you mean? Why didn’t you take her?” My voice was louder than I expected and it echoed off the rock walls.
“I tried to take her.” Mel folded her arms and then unfolded them. “She didn’t want to be in my Workshop.”
“Come sit with me.” Mel patted a sun-warmed spot at the end of the dock. The warm cedar smell lured me closer.
I sat down next to her and she put her finger up and touched it to my lips, stopping the next question that was sitting on the edge of my tongue. “Elliot . . .” She removed her finger and began tapping it on the wood. “She didn’t want to be in the same Workshop as you.”
I was sure I hadn’t heard her correctly. My jaw hurt from grinding my teeth together. I was not going to cry again.
“Before you ask, I want you to know that I don’t know the answer. She wouldn’t tell me why she didn’t want to be with you. You’re going to have to ask her yourself.” She waited, but I was suddenly out of questions.
“Can I be selfish for a moment?” Mel asked, reaching for my hand.
I nodded, unable to say anything.
“I missed you. I love everyone who walks into my life at the Obmil. I’m where I am today because I’m good at connecting with lost souls, but you and I have a special bond, Elliot.” My name already slid off her tongue like it was the only one I’d ever had.
I felt just as strongly about her. I wanted to tell Mel how special she was, not selfish at all, but I felt like a leaf floating haphazardly downstream. I couldn’t stop thinking about Emma. Wait, she was Julia now. Unfurling my clenched fingers, I wiped them against my pants. I could feel Mel’s gaze as I picked at the cuticle of my thumb.
“Is she a lot older than me or something?” I needed to find a reasonable explanation.
Mel winced. “She’s nineteen.”
Mel stood up and dusted off her wildly colorful peasant skirt. “Come on,” she said. The two inches of silver bangles on either wrist jingled. I glanced at her untamed hair, down to her toes painted in a rainbow of colors. Even if Julia was mad at me for some strange reason, how could she not want to be with Mel?
“Let’s go up to the Haven and get you settled in your room.” Mel tilted her head toward the path. “We should get out of here. David’s on his way down to the lake. Looks like he’s meeting someone who’s arriving in a little bit.” She peeked back at me with one eyebrow raised. I didn’t like David and I wasn’t fond of Mel’s eyebrow at that moment either. Not wanting to get cornered on the dock with David, I double-timed it to solid ground with Mel. Now that I was paying attention, I could feel the subtle vibration in the air that gives advance warning of a new arrival. Follow the quivering and you’d have a pretty good idea where the next dead soul was going to pop up. Even though the vibrations were stronger facing the lake, I turned and watched David make his way toward us.
David also worked at the Obmil, but he was nothing like Mel. He oozed arrogance. I opened my mouth to say something unpleasant about him, but Mel put her finger to her lips. I wasn’t sure if this was because David was striding toward us or because she didn’t want to hear me bad-mouth another “dedicated” soul at the Obmil. Before I could find out, David was standing four inches too close. I could smell his overpowering cologne as his bulk towered over me, blocking out the sun. He leaned over and gave a big mucous-filled sniff.
“Samantha.” His voice boomed. “You’re back so soon.” He plucked at his bushy mustache, then started counting on his fingers.
“It’s Elliot Turner now,” Mel said.
He shrugged and continued like he’d never been interrupted. “Miss Turner, doesn’t that make this your third visit? Time for you to step up. When you’re a Third Timer, you have to truly resolve your issues before you get to move on. Unfortunately, you don’t seem like the type who’s very self-motivated.” I gasped. He cocked his head to the side. “Or maybe, you have a reason for avoiding the truth.”
Everything he said was too loud. His smile was overly big and bright. Even though he was an overfed, overdressed windbag—more like a caricature of a powerful man than an actual one—I still stepped behind Mel like I was seven instead of seventeen.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. He dismissed me with a wave of his hand and sauntered past us, speaking over his shoulder. “Must be going. I’ve got to hurry and register this new arrival because it’s almost time for Workshop. I don’t want to keep my prize pupil waiting.” He stopped walking for just a moment and winked. “I suspect that unlike you, Miss Turner, Julia Going is going places. She’s very motivated and can’t wait to leave the Obmil.”
What People are Saying About This
“Soulful and inventive. A thoroughly original vision for what happens next.” Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds
“This gorgeous, lyrical read will sweep you away.” Jessica Verday, bestselling author of The Hollow trilogy
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm amazed how well Kimberly Sabatini took me on a journey as a reader not unlike the journey Elliot, the MC of TOUCHING THE SURFACE is on as a third timer at the Obmil, a sort of afterlife sanctuary one must stop at when you're not done with the life you've abruptly left behind. For me, I reflected the loss of my mother, who passed away unexpectedly a year ago. Thus, this novel was a very personal journey for me. But, what I discovered about myself, and the loss of my mother was through the lense of Elliot. As Elliot grew, so did I, in understanding and forgiveness of myself. Perhaps this is what Kimberly had in mind all along. TOUCHING THE SURFACE has a way of leading the reader, if you're willing, to a place of enlightenment drawn carefully and dangerously on the edge of a sharp blade, one you can dive off of into the depths, and come back up to the surface of a peace you've only imagined. This sounds crazy if you haven't read this amazing debut, but I hope you'll take the risk and dive in. Trust me, it's worth the read. If you can survive all the twists and turns and surprises along the way. My advice: Don't look back, you'll just see the road disappearing right behind you. Don't look too far forward down the road, it's not even there yet, it doesn't exist. Instead, be HERE. Be in the present. Be NOW. This book is unlike anything you'll come across, and I hope you'll experience it along with me. This is one that will change your life. It changed mine. Thank you, Kimberly!
From the amazingly unique and thought-provoking premise of this book to the relationships and the special way the characters interact through the examinations of their past lives, I was hooked on this debut from Kimberly Sabatini. So many beautiful turns of phrase and some very funny moments season this tale of love and redemption in a way that it was a heart-full read that left me satisfied even though I didn't want it to end. If you love beautiful language and great banter between characters, you're going to love this book.
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini (Simon Pulse) TOUCHING THE SURFACE is about a teenage girl named Elliot's death and her experience in the afterlife. Kimberly Sabatini has created a rich, thoughtful afterlife setting where souls are sent to delve through their past memories to find answers to questions we all struggle with ... relationships, inner turmoil, `what ifs' - all the obstacles to our own happiness and what's worse for some, how our decisions, actions and mistakes affect the lives of others. In Sabatini's afterlife, a soul gets three chances to get it right, but then what? Conventional wisdom would dictate that they are immediately shuffled off to heaven or hell, but what does that mean? Elliot has a lot to learn about souls she's incarnated with and decisions she's made, both in her past lives and here in the afterlife, and there are plenty of obstacles in her way, including Trevor, Oliver and best friend Julia. Such heavy themes are balanced by Sabatini's incandescent voice - it's obvious to me that so much love and thought went into this book, and the message she brings to readers is truly a gift! Keep your tissues handy!!
I loved every bit of Sabatini's truly excellent debut, from concept to characters. The afterlife always makes for compelling subject matter, and this author's take on it is refreshing. Your time with Elliot in the Obmil (think Limbo) will make you think, feel, and then question what you're thinking and feeling. The more I got to know Elliot, the more I empathized with her. And Trevor, the tortured hero? His T-shirt alone, with its ever-changing quips, would have won me over. The "feel" factor in this book is high, but the "angst" factor is kept to a minimum--something I truly appreciate in a YA novel. My verdict: a great read. Can't wait for more from this author!
Okay... so this book was amazing and im so happy i got tomeet the author
I meet the author
This book was beautiful. Not just the writing, although the publisher's description of "lyrical" is accurate, but also the story - and evolution of the characters. It was apparent from the start that Ms. Sabatini could write, but I worried that my initial dislike of the main character Elliot would ruin my enjoyment of the rest of the book. I was relieved to find that as Elliot grew and learned and changed, so did my perception of her. Which I believe is wonderfully fitting, given that the entire book is really all about that - redemption, evolution and eventual acceptance. It's odd that a book set in such an abstract place could feel so real, yet it does, and that's in part due to the fact that the characters feel like people you could know. They are flawed, some majorly so, but that's the whole point - if they were perfect, they wouldn't be there. At times, I did feel a bit disoriented by the twisty fantastical world created by Ms. Sabatini (or rather, by her characters ;)) - but I think that only added to my connection to the characters themselves as I felt some of their confusion. "Being brave isn't about not being scared. Being brave is what you do despite being scared." - Trevor (That one's going into my all time favorite book quotes, by the way.) My favorite character by far was the brooding Trevor, who plays the tortured hero role extremely well. The constantly changing quips on his t-shirt were such a clever way to get a glimpse inside his mind and were some of my favorite lines in the book. There's a bit of a love triangle (or a love trapezoid perhaps) involving Trevor, Elliot, and the nearly perfect good boy Oliver, but it wasn't overly angst-y as so many YA novels can get. Touching the Surface is a beautiful story of love and redemption. It's spiritual without being preachy, and I kind of hope Kimberly Sabatini's vision of the afterlife is out there to give a second (or third) chance to all of us who might need one.
When Elliot wakes up in Ombil for the third time, she knows that she certainly made some mistakes the last time around. Without memory of how she ended up in the afterlife again, Elliot realizes that this is going to be her last chance to do things right. All Elliot wants is to move on from the afterlife. But before she can, she will be forced to confront her past. Reliving the memories that she would much rather keep buried. Elliot wasn't always perfect. She's hurt and betrayed people. But worst of all, she's gotten them killed. Once the puzzle pieces start to come together, Elliot begins to figure out what her mistakes are and who she has hurt the most. Along this path of enlightenment, Elliot realizes she loves two boys. But will the truth about herself mean losing them both forever? Touching the Surface is a book about the afterlife. But it doesn't just focus on that 'world'. When we first meet Elliot, we are as confused as she is. I personally love an unreliable narrator. It really sets the tone and pacing of the book. Unfortunately, I do wish there had been more world building. I would love to find out more about the mystery of Ombil. However, this uncertainty might have been what the author was going for. One of my complaints with Touching the Surface would be the introduction of a love triangle. I just didn't really think that it had a place in this book. I would have been fine with a romance, but this set my teeth on edge. It ended up muddling up the memories and the self-realization that Elliot needed to go through. Aside from that, I did enjoy reading Touching the Surface. The path that Elliot takes is a natural one and at the end feels satisfactory. I did want a better understanding of Ombil and more of its other inhabitants, but it didn't detract too much from the book. This does feel like a standalone but I could see Sabatini writing a companion to TtS. It would be interesting to see this world from another perspective. Touching the Surface has a lyrical writing style that will have you re-reading passages. While some may lack a connection to the characters, I do think the theme of the novel will make up for anything lost along the way.
I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, it's light and funny. With the mystery of why Elliot is a third timer, it has the potential to be deep and complex, but the story is relatively simple overall. At the same time, this is one reason why the story didn't exactly work for me. All it really does is alternates between the present with Elliot in Ombil and the past through the delves into people's memories. Even at the end when Elliot pieces together her past and comes to terms with herself, I didn't feel as if I'd learned anything of consequence about the characters and humanity. Or even that I'd read a story with an interesting take on life after death, since the story focuses on the drama with Elliot figuring out her past life and her love-hate relationship with Trevor. It's too bad that we never do get to learn much about Ombil. While I understand that the story's focus is on the character relationships, Ombil is an interesting world, and I'm sorry that we never get to see more of it or of the other inhabitants and what they do here. The story takes place in a very short span of time, and we never do get to know anyone other than the central characters to the story, namely Elliot and Trevor, and even then I don't have much of an opinion on them going out of the story. I never really connected with any of the characters. They tend to be melodramatic and TALK IN CAPS WHEN THEY'RE EMOTIONAL and are flat for the most part, even Elliot and Trevor as they learn more about their hearts. Elliot is loudspoken and selfish--and hard to like. She acts as if everyone should follow her, and when things don't go her way she gets depressed and mopey and puts the blame on others. She doesn't spend much time trying to look beneath the surface or trying to look through someone else's perspective. I wanted to feel sorry for her situation, but I couldn't when she acts the way she does. As for two boys, one is perfectly likable and the other is perfectly broken. The typical good boy and bad boy. The romance was bland and predictable. Unfortunately, it dominates a large portion of the plot. Those who like a light paranormal romance with humor may find enjoy this read. However, the humor and story didn't quite work out for me. While I enjoyed the light reading, I ended up skimming many of the delves. I didn't like the constant scene switching and how scenes would get cut off when Elliot emerged from a delve. I don't know that this could have been avoided given the nature of the story, but I don't like it when a story relies on constant scence switches to move a plot forward.
One of the very best parts about being a book blogger is that I get exposed to so many books, often months before they hit the shelves. But one of the realties of being a book blogger is that there are so many books coming out every year, month, and day that sometimes you miss an amazing one. Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini is that book that fell through the cracks last year for me. I am so thankful I got a chance to correct that wrong. I fell in love with the very start of this book. Something about the way Sabatini writes just reached out through the pages and grabbed my attention right away. I was utterly and completely under her thrall during this book. The main reason I was able to sink so effortlessly into this story is Elliott. Call me a masochist or angst whore, but sometimes I love when a character is a little bit broken. Elliott is struggling. She is full of self-doubt and self-criticism. She’s dark and brooding and there are so many layers to her that even when I came to the end of the book, I was still learning more. But don’t think that this makes for a dark, depressing read. It just means you need to go into this not expecting hearts and flowers. Let Sabatini and Elliott sweep you away on this journey. While reincarnation stories are frequently more miss than hit with me, I love the originality that there isn’t an endless supply of do-overs. It adds to Elliott’s desperation and helps propel the story along. It means this is her last chance to everything is heightened, everything is dissected. Touching the Surface is a raw, lyrical novel that drew me in and carried me off on an amazing ride that I cannot wait to share with others. Sabatini is a gifted writer, and I cannot wait to see where she goes from here.
So, I seem to have a problem. I really like reading, and when I find a really good book, it's hard to do anything else! Touching the Surface had me from the very first chapter. I could tell that this wasn't going to be a "typical" afterlife book! And I'm very glad for that! Elliot is back in the afterlife, for the third time. Which is supposedly not good. We read and see how the souls learn and grow from their lives and how they discover the truth. This book isn't excatly religious, so don't get that in your head. But have you ever wondered what does happen to us after we die? Kimberly Sabatini has given us a world in which we can see one interpretation. And I love it. There's so much emotion going on in this book, and finding out things aren't always what they seem. A very good read for any person!
Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini was one of the most touching, beautiful books I have ever had the chance to read. It was marvelous in just about every way, and was a perfect debut from Kimberly Sabatini. I loved Kimberly Sabatini's take on the afterlife. It was refreshing and new. Kimberly Sabatini managed to create this perfect balance in Touching the Surface - there were just the right amount of funny scenes to balance out the more serious, and it was such a treat to read. Kimberly Sabatini addresses so many issues in Touching the Surfance - the idea of death and the afterlife, love, what the true meaning of friendship is and much more. I really loved the message she was sending. Trevor's t-shirts were so funny. He had a different phrase on them in every scene ranging from things like "I reject your reality and substitute my own" to "I don't discriminate. I hate everyone". Touching the Surface had some of the most adorable scenes I have read in a very long time. I seriously had to reread some of them, while I sat there smiling to myself. Kimberly Sabatini's prose is gorgeous. I sat there staring at the words on the page in awe, and felt the urge to write down so many phrases as the entire book was so quotable. The characters were all so diverse from one another, and I just loved them all. Oliver, Trevor, Elliot, Mel, the whole gang was just great. I loved watching them all grow throughout the book, as they worked to find their paths. Trevor and Elliot were so interesting - as they started out as slightly unlikable characters. By the end, I adored both of them so much, and was sad to see their story end. Freddie and Mel were my other favorite characters of the book. Something about them was just so warm and nice. Touching the Surface is the kind of book I can press into everyone's hands, and regardless of their genre preference, know they will enjoy. While it has fantastical elements, it reads like a contemporary, and the characters create some of the most touching bonds of friendship throughout the course of the novel. Beautiful and enchanting, Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini is a book that will charm its way into your life and you won’t be able to put it down. I really cannot wait for another book from Kimberly Sabatini.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a story is to find an author who knows how to slowly reveal her story's secrets. Kimberly Sabatini does this by taking our hands and leading us into a strange and wondrous version of the afterlife, a world where the dead are trying to figure out what comes next, and the answers are not at all clear-cut. But don't be scared off by this seemingly heavy subject matter; Touching the Surface is also a funny, romantic, and nail-biting story full of quirky characters and gorgeous imagery. When the story begins, a girl named Elliott has just been pulled out of a lake, and moments later realizes that she is back at the Obmil for the third time. Elliott, you see, has just died again, and the fact that she's here in this familiar place tells her that something has gone wrong in her previous life. Elliott is especially drawn to two boys, Oliver and Trevor. Oliver is sweet and friendly and seems to have had a positive relationship with Elliott in her last life. Trevor, however, is an angry young man who despises Elliott and tries to avoid her, despite the fact that he cannot stay away from her. But the relationship among the three of them is much more complicated that you think, and Sabatini uses all 300+ pages to slowly peel back the layers of their stories. Mixed in with this drama is a girl named Julia, a girl who has traveled with Elliott through all three of her lives but decides it might be for the best to leave Elliott behind and find her path without her friend, a decision that confuses and hurts them both. Elliott and her friends must participate in "delving," a way of reliving a past life in order to remember significant moments. But she is terrified that whatever event caused her to end up here will be too painful of a memory, so Elliott tries to avoid delving as long as possible. It is only with Trevor's help that she finds the courage to face the past and move on. More than once I fell into the trap of thinking I had things figured out, only to be surprised when events unfolded quite differently than I expected. One of my favorite parts of Touching the Surface is the way the Obmil constantly shifts and changes. Residents are able to project and create whatever reality they want or need, and so the scenery and weather are always in flux. Each physical reality a character creates not only adds an interesting layer to the story, but works as a metaphor to describe what that character is trying to work through. And speaking of characters, I loved all the complicated but ultimately satisfying relationships between Elliott and her friends in the afterlife. You might not understand them all at first, but Sabatini gets to the bottom of each character's soul in surprising and revealing ways. I also loved Kimberly's writing, which is lovely and poetic and full of emotion. After all, souls at the Obmil are working through some pretty disturbing memories, and the prose lets the emotions of the characters shine through. Kudos to Sabatini for being brave enough, in a very crowded YA market where many books are starting to feel the same, to break the mold and write a story with depth and heart, a story that makes the reader think about things like soul mates, heaven and hell, and whether or not the path you take in this life will have repercussions in the next. I suspect that everyone who reads this book will take away something different from it, which is exactly the way it should be.
booksbysteph says "Looking Forward to More from This Author" She found herself dead for the third time. This time she is 17 year old Elliot Turner. Returning to Obmil Center for Progression for a third time is not good. During her lives, she is supposed to learn personal growth so she could move on to...well, no one knows what comes after Obmil - heaven, hell or more lives. During your time at Obmil, you attend Delving School, where you lay on a swing-like apparatus and memories from your past life come back to you and you have to learn from them. Only the third timers delve while everyone else watches, like a movie. When Elliot arrives to school, she delves into her past life without even making to the swing. Elliot was horrified by the memory she recovered but others around her had different emotions. Can you kill someone who is already dead? Without the love and support from her best friend soul mate, Elliot is drawn to the one soul that wants her to pay for what she did in her last life. I GIVE THIS BOOK: 4 out of 5 stars I cannot give you any more information because I may slip and spoil the story for you. I believe we are on this Earth to learn something. If we learned it, your next life would be better. If you didn't, you would have to learn that lesson plus another lesson in your next life until you succeeded in achieving all life lessons. With that being said, this book follows along the similar values that I have when it comes to spirituality so this book captivated me. Plus the story line was fantastic. This author writes a story with so many sub-stories, I cannot even count. Somehow she wrapped up every sub-story like a present topped with a big red bow. Not only is this paranormal fiction but there is spirituality and philosophy. That makes this book a fun read while reflecting on what you believe in and not even realizing it. That makes for a very good writer. I consider this book to be shelved in the Young Adult section. I am not young but I am a Sabatini fan for life! Until next time, live life one page at a time!