May 19, 2012

Review: The Tension of Opposites

By: Kristina McBride
Published: May 2010 by Egmont
Format: Paperback, 277 pages
First Reviewed: August 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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What happens when your best friend is kidnapped...and then comes home?

Two years ago Noelle disappeared. Two long years of no leads, no word, no body.

Since the abduction, Tessa, her best friend, has lived in a state of suspended animation. She has some friends, but keeps them distant. Some interests, but she won’t allow herself to become passionate about them. And guys? She can’t get close—she knows what it is like to really lose someone she cared for.

And then, one day, the telephone rings. Noelle is alive.

And maybe, just maybe, Tess can start to live again, too.

A haunting psychological thriller taken straight from the headlines, The Tension of Opposites is a striking debut that explores the emotional aftermath a kidnapping can have on the victim, and on the people she left behind.

Rating: 2/5

Just a forewarning: The review and rating of this book was one of the hardest I've ever done. This was one of those books that just wasn't for me, but I could still see the good in it. I wanted to love this, given the subject matter, and expected to be thoroughly moved by it, but I just wasn't. I never connected with it, which ended up being the problem for me.

McBride's writing is not in any way bad. It's actually quite decent, but I never connected with it. In the beginning, I figured I was just trying to get used to the style, but the disconnection continued throughout the book. It's my main nitpick with it, because I think I would have been a huge fan if the connection and emotions were there.

Good things I liked were her use of voice with our narrator, Tessa. Even though I have my issues with Tessa, I still heard her voice quite well. I also liked that she seemed to stay with the story. She just told it without trying to dive too deep into prose and whatnot.

Now I'm about to sound a bit contradictory, but I swear it makes complete sense in my mind. While I quite enjoyed McBride's simple style, I do wish I would have gotten more emotion from it, even if that means giving a bit more to the prose in a few sections. Also, I felt sometimes the simple kind of switched to choppy. But, honestly, my main problem was just with the connection. It didn't seem to matter what was happening in the story, as I just couldn't get into the writing.

Again, my feelings for the characters all comes down to connecting emotionally with them. They all had different personalities, realistic feelings and emotions, and hobbies, but I never felt their sadness, or their passions, or their happiness. Whatever emotions came up, I knew they were there, but I never felt it.

Which was a shame, because that was the only thing missing from the leads. Tessa, who had a good hobby to throw her energy into--photography, which could have done so much more for her than I felt it did--had a great, solid foundation to be amazing. McBride attempted to show the conflicted, confused, broken emotions that Tessa had within her, and she did a good job making me know they were there, but I never felt it. Never connected with her.

When it came to Elle, I really felt disconnected. It's hard to critique a character like Elle, because I've never met a girl who's been through what she has, nor do news shows really let you know how a kidnapped person handles returning to life. And that's where my problem lied. Since, as a reader, I had no idea the emotions Elle should feel, I didn't know how McBride was trying to portray her. Okay, I can't say that really, as I did get where McBride was trying to go, but I didn't feel it. And I feel like I'm repeating myself, but that's just the truth. Elle was broken in her own way, she had her moments that almost got to me, and her journal entries we got to see where some of the most powerful moments of the book, but I just couldn't...feel her emotions like I wanted to. Or understand some of the actions, which I guess is where McBride was trying to go, but some aspects just didn't seem to work.

So, I'll some up the other characters quickly: Max was all right. Love interest, in case you're wondering. He only made the point of this book harder for me to grasp. I understand why McBride brought him in, but instead of feeling that point, I just got a bit of a controlling personality from him at times. Mostly, though, I felt he was pretty good. And the other characters didn't do anything for me at all. Some of them stereotypical and the others, I just didn't have any feelings from.

I'm pretty sure if you're reading this entire review, you're already sick of me mentioning the words "emotions," "feelings," and "disconnect," and I'm sorry to keep on repeating them, but it's really my biggest issue with every element of this book.

The premise of this is a good one. Kidnapped girl comes home after two years? The toll that would have one the family and friends would/should be one that really tugged at the heart strings. I read the summary and I see "a haunting psychological thriller," but then I think about the book. I didn't feel any of that. I just knew that Tessa was having a hard time understanding her best friend and wondering what to do around her, with her, and for her. I just knew that Elle was wanting freedom and things she thought she'd never have again and not to have people pity her or talk rumors about her. And I just knew that Max wanted Tessa to put herself first before her best friend. No "haunting psychological thriller" about it for me.

And, you know, that would have been okay guessed it...I would have felt the emotions and feelings from the characters. If the scenes would have grabbed my heart and twisted it. If Tessa's thoughts would have gotten to me. If I could have connected with everyone and every situation. But I just didn't.

Also, the pacing kind of bugged me. I think there was too much going on and yet not enough at the same time. It's a bit hard for me to explain, as I don't even realize what I mean. Another one of those things that makes sense in my head, but when I write it, it doesn't make sense. I just think I would have loved more with the photography, but then it felt like there was too much sometimes. I would have loved more with the development between the friends and the boyfriend/girlfriend. It didn't feel like it was happening over time; the relationships were just there.

Overall, I liked the premise and the elements were all there. I just never connected and never felt.

Other: The word "dunno" drives me up the freaking wall, and that was used quite a bit in this. Random Me Fact. Also, I think this would have been a bit stronger if we got more journal entries from Elle. Those were extremely powerful. And one more thing: I did not like the fact that it seemed more like a romance than a broken yet still connected bond between two friends. I wish that was the focus. Instead, there were too many things fighting to be the focus.

We all have those books that we just can't get into. Those ones that have many things going for it--in this book's case, the overall premise, the simple writing style, and the understanding of the broken, confused, and conflicted feelings of the characters--but that just don't connect with the reader. This was one of those books for me. I still recommend you give it a try if it seems like something you would like. It was just one of those books I couldn't connect with. Not bad, just not for me.

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