Saturday, 5 June 2010
Review: The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride
Publisher: Egmont USA
Released: May 25th, 2010
Grade rating: B+
When Tessa's best friend Noelle disappears right before the start of eighth grade, Tessa's life changes completely--she shies away from her other friends and stops eating in the cafeteria. Now, two years later, Noelle has escaped her captivity and is coming home, in one piece but not exactly intact, and definitely different. Tessa's life is about to change again as she tries to revive the best-friendship the two girls had shared before Noelle--now Elle--was kidnapped; puts up a futile resistance to the charming new guy at school; pursues her passion for photography while trying to build the bravado to show her photos to the public; and tries to balance her desire to protect and shelter Elle with the necessity to live her own life and put herself first.
The Tension of Opposites is a thought-provoking debut novel that covers the very serious subject of child kidnapping. It's not quite as graphic as other novels following a similar theme (like Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, for example), which could be seen as more of a good thing than bad.
The story is told by kidnap survivor Noelle's best friend Tessa, so it's her thoughts and observations that we're presented with. She notices countless differences in Noelle after her return, and tries to help her any way she can. Tessa's own life is no longer the most important thing to her, instead Noelle, or Elle as she is now known, has taken that place. Tessa's actions aren't through sympathy or guilt, instead they are the product of a love so deep not even a two-year gap can stamp it out.
McBride writes about a side to these stories we never seem to see: the side of the people left behind. Tessa has started to rebuild her life minus Noelle, and her return throws everything into a spin. Noelle is a changed person, as you would expect. Her ordeal haunts her, and no amount of normality can detract from the nightmare she lived for two years. We don't get to hear about much of her experiences, though we get snippets from her diary entries. It sounds like a nightmare like no other and, in this instance, I'm glad there isn't more detail into her kidnapping. Your imagination will run away enough as it is, and a closely detailed look at Noelle's captor's actions would have detracted from the point of the book.
Together with love interest Max, Tessa starts to rebuild Noelle's life, even if all Noelle seems to do is push her away. She never gives up, and makes their friendship her number one priority. Without her, I'm sure Noelle would have retreated into herself, made some bad decisions and regretted most of her actions. It's a case study of friendship that knows no bounds, and we should all be so lucky to have a friend like that.
At times, I felt like too much time was dedicated to Tessa and Max's relationship, and not enough focus on Noelle's state of mind. I wanted to hear more about what she was feeling and thinking, and I didn't think that was explored to its full potential. Max's journey with Tessa is inspiring, though, and all he does for her is truly selfless. In a way, he saves her, while she's trying to save Noelle. It's a constant roundabout, with the circles representing more than simple human kindness.
The Tension of Opposites is an important book, and one that shouldn't be read lightly. It will make you think, and will undoubtedly raise awareness of kidnapping and its consequences. It's a powerful look at an all too realistic topic, and is a worthy addition to this year's strong debut offerings.