Cover of The Dark in Between by Elizabeth Hrib. A white male hand sprawled on the misty ground, with falling feathers

About the Book

Title: The Dark in Between
Published: 2020

Cover Story: Featherweight
Drinking Buddy: Water into Wine
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (cartoonish violence, intense emotional situations)
Talky Talk: Meh…
Bonus Factors: Date With an Angel, Afterlife
Bromance Status: Sunday School Classmate

Cover Story: Featherweight

The hand is creepy, but but the feathers give the impression that this guy was killed by a seagull.

The Deal:

Casey Everett nearly died in a freak boating accident. Much worse, her best friend Liddy drowned. Casey, who was already an orphan, cannot deal with the horrible pain, and wonders how she can expect to go on. She’s tormented by nightmares of Liddy’s hopeless screams. One day, as she’s driving along, something falls from the sky. Falls kind of hard. It’s a guy. A young, handsome, naked boy, who leaves an impressive crater and doesn’t seem any worse for wear.

Well, it turns out that this guy is a fallen angel named Red. Red has been banished from heaven due to questionable loyalties, and has been sent earth to earn his wings. It seems that since both Casey and Liddy ‘died’ together, Liddy is trapped in limbo. She cannot pass on to the other side without help. That’s what all those nightmares are about. Now Red, with Casey’s help, must help Liddy move forward. But there are other forces in the universe: weird, ethereal, spooky things in the way. So Casey, with the help of her new angel buddy and her friend Evan, have to fight these cosmic forces in order to free a lost soul and help Red return to the choir invisible.

Drinking Buddy: Water into Wine

Two pints of beer cheersing

Casey is having some severe survivor’s guilt. In a normal situation, there would be very little she could do to help this, other than years of therapy and time. However, she now has a chance to rescue her best friend. She can’t bring her back to life, but she can get her out of the netherworld, which is something. Yes, this comes at tremendous personal risk, both for herself and for Evan. But maybe she can finally close the door on this horrible chapter in her life.

Casey is not someone you want to cross. When she attends a memorial service for Liddy and catches some girls taking selfies, well, Casey shows them exactly why that sort of behavior is not appropriate. In a way they’ll never forget…

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (cartoonish violence, intense emotional situations)

So Casey, Red, and Evan have to fight the forces of darkness to free Liddy. Rocking heavenly weapons (including magic feathers), the trio goes all in for their dead friend. The Bible says that we struggle not with flesh and blood, but this came close. It’s time to gird up their loins and kick some demon ass.

Now Casey, Liddy, and Evan were always the Three Amigos, until Liddy tragically left them. The thing is, Evan and Casey had been dancing around becoming something more for a while now. And just before Evan took the plunge, Liddy was killed. That put the kibosh on any romantic plans. Evan still cares about Casey (and Casey is receptive to that idea), but how soon is too soon? And how can Evan deal with this other-worldly hunk who shows up naked in Casey’s life?

Talky Talk: Meh…

It was a good concept. Casey gets redemption, Red can go back to heaven, and Liddy can move on. But the thing is, Red is a legitimate angel. A heavenly being. Um, isn’t anyone curious about that? Casey, once she gets over her initial shock, only seems interested in information that deals with Liddy or Red. But wouldn’t you be tempted to ask about the secrets of the universe? So, there is a God? There is an afterlife? Is there a one true religion? How are my dead loved ones doing? (remember, Casey’s parents died somewhat recently) Is there a concrete moral code in the universe?

I know these kids are busy, but I think Casey could have spared five minutes to ask about the meaning of life.

Also, what kind of name is Red for an angel? All the other angels have traditional names: Azrael, Gabriel, Raphael, Michael. I think we could have gone with some new, original names. Then again, there was nothing wrong with ‘Clarence.’

All in all, this was a neat idea, but nothing really jumped out at me. I would have built up the nature of the universe theme. As it stands, this was just another book about kids fighting monsters.

Bonus Factor: Date With an Angel

Cover of Unlikely Angel with Dolly Parton in angel wings

Now it’s not entirely clear that Casey is destined to end up with Evan. And, well, Red is not without his charm. Handsome, brave, and mysterious, Casey has the occasional non-angelic thought.

Now we’ve suffered through the sexy vampire, the sexy werewolf, and even the sexy zombie and sexy murderer. But a sexy angel? Well, Red did originally lose his wings over love. Apple, anyone?

Bonus Factor: Afterlife

Like many young people, Casey was confronted with the permanence of death suddenly. And in her case, repeatedly. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the end wasn’t the end? If she could see Liddy again? Talk to her? Help her?

Of course, Casey wasn’t expecting non-benevolent angels, monsters, and a friend who may be happier on the other side. Casey and Liddy can be together again…but hopefully not until a very long time has passed.

Bromance Status: Sunday School Classmate

You were tolerable, but I would have rather spent the time on something else.

Literary Matchmaking

Missing, Presumed Dead

A woman develops a strong friendship with a dead person in Emma Berquist’s Missing, Presumed Dead.

Four Three Two One

Courtney Stevens’s Four Three Two One is an excellent story of survival guilt.

The History of Jane Doe

Or The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger.

FTC full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but neither money nor a godly sword for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.