Echoes Between Us – Katie McGarry – Tor Teen – Published 14 January 2020
Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…
Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.
A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?
As a devoted Katie McGarry fan I was a little worried when this book was marketed as a breakout novel and a move into a new genre. I shouldn’t have worried. Echoes Between Us is everything a Katie McGarry novel always is – heartbreaking, emotional, addictive, thrilling and romantic- with ghosts. It’s actually not much different from its companion novel Only A Breath Apart, which introduced a touch of the supernatural to the main story of family complexity and romance. Echoes Between Us encapsulates so many emotions and such important topics around grief, learning difficulties, illness and addiction.
Veronica can see her mother’s ghost. It, along with crippling migraines, is a constant reminder that she has a brain tumour, like the tumour that killed her mother. But she’s not afraid to die. Veronica is curious about the footsteps and rumbles in her own home, the rumours of ghosts that haunt the abandoned TB hospital, the stories of a girl who walks along the stretch of road where she died. When Sawyer moves into the rooms above Veronica’s house, he is sceptical of the warnings he receives about it being haunted. Even more sceptical of Veronica and her band of friends. He’s got bigger troubles, like taking care of his mother and sister, and resisting to urge to get adrenaline highs from cliff jumping. But Sawyer and Veronica are drawn together, and in order to hide a secret, Sawyer agrees to partner with Veronica on her ghost hunting senior project.
There are many familiar faces from Only A Breath Apart in Echoes Between Us. I loved returning to the tight friendship group of Jesse, Nazareth, Leo, Veronica and Scarlet. And it was fabulous getting to know Sawyer and his group of friends. At first they seem cruel and rude – and they are, but they learn and as the reader gets to know them better there is so much more to discover about their stories. My heart broke for Sawyer. He carries so much and feels so bad about the ways in which he is cracking under the weight. As he moved from judging Veronica to finding in her someone he can trust and share his secrets, he also learns to open up to others.
This book deals with addiction. Sawyer is addicted to adrenaline rushes, his mother is an alcoholic. It takes a long time for Sawyer to be able to admit to this. Watching his journey from staying apart from people to learning to get help was amazing and so important for teen readers. This book is all about casting off shame and stigma. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite – all about being open and understanding, both to others and to yourself.
I loved how Katie McGarry wove her story of ghosts, faith and the scepticism of others. The book is open in every way. Each of the characters has a different explanation for the phenomenon they experience, whether that’s ghosts, God, medical symptoms, reflections of one’s mental health or something else. Readers can make what they want of the explanations, can bring their own beliefs to the story and see it through that lens. Echoes Between Us is not an overly scary ghost story, it’s certainly not a horror story, but there are a few hair raising moments. It’s mostly a love story, with a big emphasis on family, friends and trauma. The supernatural parts reflect the internal battles of the characters so well.
There is diversity and acceptance and themes about learning to be accepting of others, which is so important in YA fiction. I particularly admire Sawyer and his approach to his dyslexia, his support of his friend after her coming out, the way Sawyer and his group of friends learn not to judge Veronica and her friends for being different and for the way in which Veronica must face her grief and fear.
I loved this book. Loved the way Katie McGarry handled every single detail. I can’t wait to see what she writes next, and I’d really love to return to this main group of characters again.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Themes: Ghosts, grief, friendship, death, ghost hunting, paranormal phenomena, romance, brain cancer, addictions, parents, family.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Vague sexual references, one reference to virginity, possible implied sex scene (no details). Mild coarse language pi** (34), bit** (2). References to alcohol use, drunkenness and alcohol addiction. References to death, illness and medical procedures. References to medical marijuana use. Reference to dangerous behaviour – cliff jumping.
Published: 14 January 2020 by Tor Teen.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 384 pages.