Book Review: The Girl in Between (The Girl in Between Book 1) by Laekan Zea Kemp

Bryn has Klein-Levin Syndrome, a chronic illness that causes episodes of sleep that last anywhere from days to months, but hers is a rare case because, when she has these episodes, she goes to a strange place with an everchanging landscape, made entirely of her memories, where she's the completely alone... until the day a boy she's never met washes up on the beach. He has no memory, but Bryn's convinced he's real and that his appearance is not a coincidence and is determined to find him in the real world.

Book Review: The Girl in Between (The Girl in Between Book 1) by Laekan Zea Kemp | reading, books, book reviews, fantasy, urban fantasy, young adult, chronic illness, kls
Title: The Girl in Between
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 289
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


I’m going to preface this review with notes about the series as a whole, before I get to my thoughts on this book in particular.

1) I’ve read this whole series (I’ve read Books 1-3 twice, actually), and this book and the first half of Book 2 were great, but the paranormal stuff got really inconsistent after that.

2) The series gets significantly darker as it goes on.

3) In regards to how the chronic illness is handled, *MINOR SPOILER (I don’t consider this a spoiler, but it’s something you don’t find out for sure until later in the series)* the illness turns out to be something paranormal, not a real chronic illness, and I often find that a frustrating trope. *END SPOILER*

But despite my complaints about things further in the series, I do still recommend this series because what I disliked about the later books may not be something you dislike, and, to be fair, I still liked a lot about them.

Now, onto my thoughts for this book.

This was the best, most realistic portrayal of chronic illness that I’ve ever read, at least in terms of the emotional aspects, as well as how it affects your life and those around you. As someone with a chronic illness, albeit a different one than Bryn, I can tell you that the author nailed what it feels like, all those little things that would never even cross the mind of the average healthy person. It will make you realize and appreciate things you’ve taken for granted or even complained about. It was never exaggerated, Bryn was just a normal girl trying to have a normal life, but her illness was still a constant part of her, and the realism was what made it so powerful. And it doesn’t matter that this character had just one chronic illness out of the thousands that are out there because understanding one is better than understanding none, and there are some thoughts, emotions, disappointments, strengths, and experiences that carry over among many different illnesses.

Because the truth was I was tired. I was tired of fighting but more importantly I was tired of losing, of being disappointed.

But maybe I could give myself something too—permission to keep trying. Even when it felt like it was all for nothing. Even if trying was all I ever did, I shouldn’t stop.

If I had to pull an all-nighter studying for a test or too many looming deadlines had me pulling out my hair, I wouldn’t end up with just some trendy coffee addiction. I’d end up in a mini-coma, face down in the middle of the studio or on the floor of the community showers.

My lip trembled, my throat raw, and I started to cry. But not because I didn’t look perfect. But because I looked healthy and because I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay that way.

Everything else in the book was well-written and (aside from the paranormal aspects, obviously) realistic too—Bryn’s imperfect and sometimes strained but still loving family, her strong and solid friendships, the general teenager/high school-ness of some of the characters and situations, the manipulative words and actions of Bryn’s on-again-off-again ex-boyfriend and the way he always knew exactly what to say to reel her back in when she tried to cut the ties between them, the lingering feelings she still had for him and the difficulty she had trying not to get reeled back in, the pain she felt over her father abandoning her when she was a kid, Roman’s terror and confusion at waking up in some strange world where no one but Bryn existed and worrying if maybe he really was just a figment of her imagination…

I also liked the writing. It was pretty without being overly frilly or metaphorical. And the plot was good too, slow-paced but never lagging. The real life parts were good because of their realism and relatability, Bryn’s relationships with her friends, family, and ex, and her experiences with her illness, but the dream state parts were interesting and had a kind of intimacy to them since it was just her and Roman, all alone, getting to know each other, trying to figure out who he was. And it was all kind of mysterious. I also enjoyed both Bryn’s and Roman’s POVs.

So overall, this particular book in the series was realistic but still mysterious with a hint of paranormal, pretty writing, and a fantastic portrayal of chronic illness!

*I’ve read this book multiple times. This review was written after my 2nd read.*

Reread Ratings:
3.5 Stars (1st Read – 2015)
4 Stars (2nd Read – 2016)


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  1. Luna & Saturn

    This books seems to capture real life really well, what with the chronic illness, high school experiences and teenage problems. The premise itself is also really fascinating. We’ve never heard of this author or book before, but it seems interesting. For some reason, when reading the blurb, the anime Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa) just seemed similar to The Girl Inbetween. Great review!
    ~ Pendragons 

    1. Kristen Burns

      It really did capture real life well! This was the first thing I read by this author. I’ve never seen that anime, but it sounds interesting if it’s similar to this book 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It really was an interesting series. Even though I had some issues with the later books, I kinda still liked them anyway, and I definitely liked the darker turn things took, so that wasn’t a complaint from me 😉

  2. Greg

    When i read the blurb for this one I thought it was really cool that she spends time in an alternate reality made up of memories, then I read on and realized she’s alone there. I was wondering how that works. And that’s high praise that it captures a chronic illness so well! I like that third quote especially. I do like it too when families are fractured, after all that’s realistic and especially in cases of illness seems like there could be a lot of hardship there. That and the manipulative ex- BF- sounds like this author hits a lot of realistic notes here. You have me kinda wanting to read this one now! 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s memories not of specific, like interactions with people but of places and things that relate to impactful memories, like her grandparents’ house, or a place she went that had these statue things that she liked. It’s actually kinda cool to think about. Like, what your own alternate reality would be made up of… But anyway, it definitely did an amazing job with the chronic illness. I feel like my review is so quote-y but I couldn’t help it, I loved so many of the quotes. The third one is great because it really shows the difference, the kinds of things people take for granted or don’t think about. And Illness and disability does often impact family, especially in her case since has these bouts where she’s asleep and really can’t take care of herself. The ex-BF thing was also super realistically well-written. Like, I could *feel* what she was feeling, he was manipulating me too, and I was tempted to want her to get back with him even though as the reader I KNEW it was all BS lol, you know?

  3. Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium

    I had gotten this book maybe a couple of years ago when it was a freebie in amazon, because of my freebie addiction and because of the gorgeous cover. The one with the red flowers. LOVE THAT COVER! Then of course it got forgotten in the bottomless pit of freebies my iPhone is. But it has been on my radar lately and for some reason. I think you mentioned it recently, maybe in a cover characteristics or a discussion post. So I just add it to goodreads! I love that it’s dark, and it gets darker [omg I’m giggling now, hands clasped and all] and that with the paranormal elements still shows a very realistic portrayal of chronic illness. Can’t wait now! Great review K!

    1. Kristen Burns

      You know, you might really like this series. It does get pretty dark, and, ok, remember when I commented on your review of Mara Dyer about how I don’t like when series just get more confusing with paranormal and I don’t know what’s going on? Well this was one of those series. Kinda, since I still mostly knew what was going on, it was just kinda inconsistent. But anyway, my point is, if you like books like that, you might like this series even more than I did lol. Thank you!

  4. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    I’m pretty sure I have a copy of this on my Kindle. Sounds like a decent read and I’m glad you enjoyed it despite a few issues. The cover is really interested and I’m having a purple kind of day – everything I see that’s purple I want!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol a purple kind of day, that’s new. I don’t have days like that, haha. The issues I had were really just with the later books, but I’m still glad I read the series. You might really like it!

  5. Uma @ Books.Bags.Burgers.

    I have this book on my Kindle!! Wonderful review and I really like the quotes <3 It seems so dark and the cover adds to that! Also, I'm so ashamed i discovered your blog only now! It's gorgeous <3 So neat yet whimsical!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like everyone apparently has this one their kindle, haha. Thank you! I feel like my review has too many quotes lol, but I couldn’t stop myself because there were just so many great ones. And the series did get really dark. Aww, thank you!!!

  6. Cee Arr

    Sounds interesting! Bit disappointed in the eating disorder being described as ‘annoying,’ but still sounds like one to look out for!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think what she meant was that the character didn’t have a real eating disorder, she just complained about being fat and talked about needing to diet, that kind of thing, but you’re right that eating disorders are serious things, and that quote could’ve been written in a better way that doesn’t trivialize them. It really was a book I enjoyed though!

  7. Danya @ Fine Print

    Every now and then I want to read something darker, and this one sounds perfect! I actually haven’t read any fiction books portraying chronic illness – only a couple memoirs – so I’d really like to start doing so. And it’s good to hear that the writing is pretty too, especially since it doesn’t veer into overly flowery territory (which can be a tough balance to strike)!

  8. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I’d already added this book to my TBR from one of your previous posts, but this review just makes me want to read it more. I admit, I read your spoiler and am slightly annoyed that there was a paranormal cause for the chronic illness, but since it was portrayed so well I feel like I am willing to give the series a chance. Especially as the first book is free for Kindle, I can never say no to freebies. I will read the series and see what I think. It sounds interesting anyway, great review.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree about the illness thing (obviously), it’s frustrating that so many books turn out like that. I’m starting to be a little more lenient about that though because some stories just can’t work otherwise. Like, this series wouldn’t exist had the illness not turned out paranormal, it’d be a totally different story. And since the illness is portrayed so realistically and lasts for a book and a half, I feel like it’s still doing some good. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think 🙂 Thanks!

  9. La La in the Library

    Can you read just books one and two and be satisfied, or is book three a necessity? It sounds like something I might like, but I am super picky about magical systems and metaphysical rules being solid. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      The series has an overall story, so I don’t think you’d be satisfied stopping at two books :-/ I completely understand your hesitancy because I’m also a stickler about magic systems being consistent. That was why that was my main issue with the later books. But I have kind of mixed feelings about the series overall since I also still liked a lot about it? Like, I’m still glad I read it, even though I did have some issues. You could always wait until I get all the reviews posted for this series and maybe that’d give you a better idea.

  10. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I’m definitely curious enough to look into this series and read some reviews of people who enjoyed the final books AND watch for yours about why you were a bit disappointed. It’s a shame that the series started out really strong but then went downhill for you.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m glad you’re not writing it off yet. I think people sometimes forget how subjective review are. I feel so conflicted about this series though! I did still like certain things, so it was a shame that it went downhill.

  11. Lola

    As you know I actually DNF’d this one, it just wasn’t for me. I do agree the chronic illness seemed to be portrayed realistically. Although that’s also part what I didn’t like as illnesses can make me a bit uneasy. The weird thing is that when the author asked me to review the book I actually declined as I thought it wasn’t a book for me and then later when it was free I picked it up anyway and then DNF’d it.

    I can see why you enjoyed this book. And I think this is one of those books that people can really enjoy or not. The writing and the mysteriousness didn’t quite work for me. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Well at least you made the right decision when you turned the author down. And since it was free, you didn’t waste any money by DNFing. The chronic illness was definitely well written though.

      Books are just so subjective! I guess the writing and mysteriousness just did work for me 🙂 Thanks!

  12. Bookworm Brandee

    You have me very curious about this one, Kristen. The premise sounds great and I also like that the portrayal of a chronic illness are done so well. I think I can overlook the issues with the paranormal element considering this and your praise of it. 🙂 Excellent review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, glad I’ve made you curious 🙂 That’s the thing, even though I had issues with the later books, I can somewhat overlook them and still say I enjoyed the series because of all the other things it did well. Thanks!

  13. AngelErin

    You had me sold at the series gets darker as it goes on haha. First of all I love this cover. Also, it sounds so good. I’m glad that you enjoyed the series despite a couple of negatives. It sounds really intriguing. I did read your mild spoiler and as far as that’s concerned I don’t think that would bother me. I definitely need to read this one sometime! Excellent review. 😀

    1. Kristen Burns

      The way the series got so dark is one of the main reasons I still enjoyed it and am glad I read it, despite the issues I had with the later books. And it was a cool idea! The thing about the mild spoiler is that it’s not realistic which makes it not the best representation, but it doesn’t actually change how good the book/story was. Thanks!