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Author Jill Hathaway strikes a mesmerizing balance of mystery and poignant emotional turmoil with her debut offering, Slide. The story of teenager Sylvia "Vee" Bell, Slide is a murder mystery on the surface, but it's also a story of a broken family trying to piece themselves back together, and it's that aspect that called strongly to me. Vee's mother died five years before the story starts, and it's that loss that still haunts Vee, her sister, Mattie, and their father, who tells them he loves them in the only ways he can - through the elaborate meals he cooks for them. Vee and Mattie are both studies in grief, though they both express it in different ways. I liked Vee right away, but after reading Slide, part of the problem is that I didn't connect with Vee.
That's not to say that Slide isn't a fantastic story. Vee may be a diagnosed narcoleptic, but only she knows the truth about herself: when she passes out, she slips into the mind and body of whomever she's last had physical contact with. All it takes it for the person she touches to be emotionally charged about something, and even them handing her a dollar or brushing against her is enough. After she "slides" into the body of the person who murdered one of her sister's friends, Vee holds knowledge that no one else does: Sophie did not commit suicide like everyone else thinks. Someone killed her - and Vee's determined to find out who the killer is. For the first time, she considers her ability not a curse, but a blessing - and a tool to solve the mystery of Sophie's death.
I was completely engrossed in the mystery aspect of Slide; I will say that Jill Hathaway definitely had me guessing up until the last minute, even throwing in some rather clever red herrings to distract the reader from the identity of the real killer. That portion of Slide was brilliantly done; however, there were other storylines to the book that I felt got a gloss-over treatment in order to focus (maybe too much) on the mystery playing out. Vee's strained friendship with her best friend - and maybe love interest - Rollins was well done, and their relationship was my favorite part of Slide, but her blossoming romance with new boy in town Zane was mediocre at best, falling into the overdone "insta love" trap that too many authors step into, rather willingly or unknowingly. I wanted so much to love them; instead, Zane's potential was badly wasted, and his and Vee's relationship - which goes from zero to sixty in a matter of a few days - felt forced and just tossed into Slide to give it more depth, an attempt that failed.
Slide is a hard book for me to review - I adored some parts, and wanted to rip out others. Most of the secondary characters were very sympathetic - I especially felt for Vee's father, once more was revealed about him. I'll be anxious to learn more about him and about Mattie in the sequel, Imposter. I did feel like sometimes the choices a few of the characters made didn't make sense, and I'd like to see growth out of Vee and a few others in the sequel/other books. I also felt like Slide was WAY too short - at 245 pages, I felt like I had barely gotten to know the characters before the book was over, and instead of taking a chance and leaving a few things dangling, Jill Hathaway did what so many authors do, and tried to tie everything up a bit too neatly at the end. I wish more authors weren't afraid of not a cliffhanger ending per se, but just not having to have every plot arc wrapped into a pretty package as the book ends.
Overall, Slide is a fun murder mystery that will keep readers guessing, but could have used more depth in a few areas in order to achieve a better balance. The sequel, Imposter will be out either approximately early next year, and I will read it because even if she's a tough nut to crack, Vee Bell is a fascinating character, and I think this series has a lot of potential.