Thursday, June 7, 2018

Book Review: The Opposite of Here

Title: The Opposite of Here
Author: Tara Altebrando
Genre: Young Adult | Mystery | Thriller
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC

There's no hiding on a cruise ship-not even from yourself. Natalie's parents are taking her and her three best friends on a cruise for her seventeenth birthday. A sail-a-bration, they call it. But it's only been a few short months since Natalie's boyfriend died in a tragic accident, and she wants to be anywhere but here. Then she meets a guy on the first night and sparks fly. After a moonlit conversation on a secluded deck of the ship, Natalie pops down to her cabin to get her swimsuit so they can go for a dip. But when she returns, he's gone. Something he said makes her think he might have . . . jumped? No, he couldn't have. But why do her friends think she's crazy for wanting to make sure he's okay? Also, why do they seem to be hiding something from her? And how can she find him when she doesn't even know his name? Most importantly, why is the captain on the intercom announcing the urgent need for a headcount (goodreads)?

The Opposite of Here was unexpected!
Plot: From reading Tara Altebrando's previous works, I knew that she had a special brand of mystery but The Opposite of Here took the cake! This novel followed Natalie, whose parents planned a cruise getaway for her and her three best friends to celebrate her 17th birthday. It also served as a distraction since her boyfriend passed just a few months earlier. 

For the most part, The Opposite of Here was disorienting; nothing seemed to make sense. Her friends had weird reactions about her dead boyfriend, there was talk of someone going overboard, and also a mystery boy (there is always a mystery boy). While it was confusing, it was also a lot of fun to feel constantly off-balanced and Altebrando dropped bombshells until the very last page. 

Characters: Natalie was going through a lot and it was easy to empathize with her. I thoroughly enjoyed being in her head and watching her while she coped with her boyfriend's death. Natalie's friendship with her three best friends was complicated, which was expected for four girls going through their transformative years, and surprisingly there was commentary about racial identity and an homage to the #metoo movement. 

Worldbuilding: Altebrando has ensured that I'll never step foot on a cruise ship. From Natalie's observations and the cruise ship fliers that accompanied each chapter, I got the impression that Natalie felt suffocated and that the cruise ship's offerings were all artificial. Despite that, I was impressed by Altebrando's ability to limit all action to a 500-person cruise ship. It felt both suffocating and overwhelming enormous at the same time. 

Short N Sweet: The Opposite of Here was a surprising thriller with more depth than expected.


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