This post may contain affiliate links or I may be reviewing a book that I have received for free as part of a review program or as an advanced reader copy. That being said, all opinions are my own. The book cover, author photo, author biography, and plot summary for In The Middle are courtesy of sjhenderson.net.
Eek! StoryCartel is really becoming a favorite place of mine to find new books! This time, I picked up an advanced reader copy of In The Middle by S J Henderson. I remember reading over the synopsis on StoryCartel and snickering to myself at the amusing tone of voice Henderson used when writing the plot synopsis. That theme carried on throughout the book, and she didn’t disappoint in any other ways, either! Read on to find out about Mitte, Oliver, and Lucille (side note: Lucy would absolutely smack me upside the head for calling her that, but her name’s pretty important to the story).
In The Middle in 85 Characters or Less
Survivor becomes hero of paranormal town and learns to love its inhabitants
Full Plot Summary
Girl moves to new town.
Girl meets Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome.
Cue Happily Ever After.
That’s how the story goes, right?
Except this is Lucy. The same Lucy whose stellar driving skills single-handedly wiped out both of her parents, leaving her with nothing but the suitcase in her hand and the screws in her skull. Not to mention that Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome—AKA Oliver—is just as annoyingly bossy as he is hot. According to Oliver, Lucy’s not safe in her new hometown, but he refuses to say why. He just gives her some lame warning about not going out after dark, like that’ll stop her.
When several townspeople vanish, the lethargic community springs to life, fearful of the danger lurking among them. The problem is that Lucy’s the last person to have seen any of the missing. Doesn’t exactly qualify her for the Neighbor of the Year Award.
Lucy’s already given up on Happily Ever After, but now she has two choices left: find out what’s happening in her new home, or become the next victim.
Sarcasm Is On Point
Gosh, I loved Lucy. No, no, not the TV show, but Lucille Torres of Detroit. I’m not going to lie, Lucy had a pretty terrible thing happen to her before the start of the novel, and she has every right to be bitter about it. Lucky for us readers, she didn’t become one of those angry bitter people that we can’t stand to be around, but a humorous one with some hope still left in her.
Her inner thoughts and conversations with herself are quite funny. They’re not laugh-so-hard-you-cry moments, but they’re for sure the smirk-and-snicker moments. In my opinion, those are equally good. My favorite line from In The Middle comes when Lucy’s trying to make a dramatic exit:
“My retreat is so slow that Oliver could take his time making a list of the pros and cons of telling me all about Mitte. Heck, my retreat is so slow he could work a crossword puzzle, knit a sweater, and then make his list.”
See what I mean? Trust me, you’ll love Lucy too.
Premature L-word Drop?
Henderson did a great job of building up Lucy’s confusion and debate about her feelings toward Oliver throughout In The Middle. She also did a fantastic job of inserting little adorably awkward moments on Oliver’s part that showed he had feelings for Lucy, as well. Then, all of a sudden, it felt like, the L-word (love, if y’all don’t know what I’m talking about) was dropped into the mix. This occurred around the middle of the book. When I was reading it, it really did feel way too soon. There wasn’t enough build up.
That being said, when you get to the epilogue, the potentially too-soon declaration of love seems forgivable. So forgivable, in fact, that the epilogue opens up a whole new world and dimension that deserves a sequel. So, SJ Henderson? Anything in the works?
It Gave Me The Feels
My favorite things about books and their authors’ is their ability to make me feel everything the character is feeling, right along with the character. This emotional connection makes me fall in love with that series, character, or writer, so it’s understandable that when I start reading a work by a new person, I’m a bit hesitant I won’t get the same connection. That worry was soon realized to be completely unfounded with In The Middle.
I was about a third of the way through the book when I went to rub my eye and realized that I was crying, hard enough that I had a wet spot on my pillow. It was at an appropriately heart-wrenching moment in the book, as well. I already mentioned that I found myself snickering at Lucy’s dialogue throughout the book, and there were other moments where I felt just as wound-up or determined as the characters did, too. When I closed the book at the end, I had that happy-sad-bittersweet feeling that you get at the end of a good story that always comes with a satisfied smile on your face. You know what I mean? These are the types of books that stick with you and these are the types of authors you go back to. Well done, Henderson.
Incredibly Innovative Idea
Henderson was truly gifted with some fantastic creative juices. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the basis of this book, because I’ll give it entirely away, but trust me on this. Henderson was able to create a paranormal romance with an ethical edge through Lucy and the small town of Mitte. She combined loss, regret, and redemption in a beautiful way that got you thinking about your own bucket list and mistakes in the past.
Maybe some of you, when you read romance books, will only see a smutty love story and not a personal work of art. That’s okay. For me, though, I believe that love is pretty much the only thing worth living for – love for yourself, what you do, and the people around you – so when I find a book that makes me consider my life through the lens of love? That’s my rose.
Where to Buy
Since 2011, S. J. has written four YA (Young Adult) and two MG (Middle Grade) novels. She published her first book, DANIEL THE DRAW-ER, in March 2014. The second book in the series, DANIEL THE CAMP-ER, was released in March of 2015. She also has contributed to several anthologies, including MOSAIC, a collection of poems and fiction. Several times a year she heads up the KID AUTHORS PROJECT, where children in grades 1-8 work together to publish their very own book.
S. J. is married and shares her home with her husband, four boys, two smelly dogs, and a cat. Or maybe the cat shares his home with S. J. and the rest of the family. You know cats….
When she’s not writing about talking cats and pizza-baking, story-problem-solving robots, she can be found hanging out at the barn with her family’s horses. Some of S. J.’s favorite things are foo-foo coffees (pumpkin spice lattes, mmm!), movie theater popcorn, singing too loud along with her ukulele, and Johnny Depp.