Have you ever read a book that filled something inside you that you didn't even know was empty, opened your eyes to aspects of your own life that needed reexamining? Have you ever sat for long moments after finishing a book, letting the emotions it brought to your surface swell inside you until they crash over you, like a wave? Have you ever missed the characters you were reading about, because they meant so much to you? If so, then you know what my experience reading Time Between Us was like.
I knew I had to read this one from the first synopsis on Goodreads: "about a girl who meets a boy who can hold her hands and take her anywhere." Then came the gorgeous cover, which I was in love with...and THEN, finally, the moment when I started Tamara Ireland Stone's novel, and was at once completely and totally invested in Anna and Bennett's story. Although the story is only told from Anna's point of view, both she and Bennett are such amazingly beautiful characters - each flawed in their own ways, yet also incredible identifiable and relatable. There was never a moment when I didn't feel like I KNEW Bennett and Anna. While I was reading their story, they were as real to me as people I pass on the street. Watching them interact, every minute between them pulsed with a heartbeat, with meaning, with love and longing and loss, and it was just fantastic.
I've read several time travel novels (and I'm definitely the biggest Doctor Who fan - I - know) so it's safe to say that I adore all things time travel. But Stone puts a new spin on what we think we know, and I really enjoyed Bennett's explanations of what he can - andn can't - do, as well as watching Anna try to piece it all together. I felt like I was in Anna's head, figuring it out along with her. The pacing of Time Between Us was so balanced, between revelations and slower moments with Anna and her family or friends, or Bennett. Stone gave those various relationships time to develop sweetly, and it led to fuller characters, and a sense of belonging on my part, as a reader. I felt like I was being given a glimpse into Anna's world, and I cherished that.
I read Time Between Us in a matter of hours, at once wanting - needing - to know what happened next, yet also wanting to savor each word. The characters were all real, as mentioned, and I loved watching Anna interact with those around her. I can't even really put into words my love for Anna and Bennett. From their auspicious beginning, which is beautifully explained later, to Stone laying the foundations for their friendship, and ultimately the deep sense of caring between them, I was falling for their relationship just as much as they were for one another. Anna and Bennett are an extremely poignant example of a first, sweet love where two people are good for one another, though not without their failings. My heart broke for each of them, separate and together, more than once, especially at the threat of time keeping them apart.
What I liked best about Tamara Ireland Stone's magnificent debut novel was the character growth. I'm a HUGE fan of characters who grow and change over the course of a novel, and both Bennett and Anna certainly did that. I cried more than once for and with Anna as she struggled to see what was right in front of her, and to learn to be truly brave, and my heart went out to Bennett, too. In the end, they both became incredibly strong people, and as I closed the last page of Time Between Us, I had tears drying on my cheeks, cherishing their love and their decisions and their courage.
I won't soon forget Time Between Us, or the lasting impression Anna and Bennett's story made on me. It's been about two weeks (at the time I'm writing this review in August) since I finished it, and I'm still wondering what Bennett and Anna will be up to next. Stone's debut novel is a truly beautiful one, filled with heart-wrenching moments, and yet also, there is hope scrawled indelibly across the pages, too.