In Between (by Jenny B Jones)

I never know what to expect from free Kindle fiction books by authors I have not previously heard of. But I’m always willing to try anything that sounds even vaguely interesting, and which has some positive reviews. I had not come across Jenny B Jones before, as far as I know, but this book ‘In Between’, which calls itself a ‘Katie Parker production’, looked interesting, so I downloaded it.

While travelling recently I decided to read the book, which I quickly realised is intended for teenagers rather than adults; but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s narrated by sixteen-year-old Katie Parker, and starts when she is travelling from a children’s home, where she’s been living for the past six months, to a potential foster family.

Her background is made clear almost immediately: she lived with her mother in a caravan, neglected but coping on the whole, until her mother was imprisoned for drug-dealing. She has no idea where her father is. She didn’t much like the children’s home where she was living, but had bonded with the social worker who’s driving the car to the new foster home.

Moreover, she apparently prefers the known to the unknown. She’s nervous and somewhat confused during the journey, and the conversation in the car is well done, revealing a lot about both. Clearly the social worker, despite being somewhat abrupt, is fond of Katie. But she’s convinced that a new life in a small town will be the making of her.

Katie, as we gradually discover, has spent her life expecting rejection. She’s convinced that her new situation won’t work out - sooner or later she’ll be sent back to the children’s home. So she’s determined, right from the start, to make herself as obnoxious as possible in the hope that she’ll be sent back before she develops any kind of affection for her new family or makes any friends. She presents herself as sullen and antagonistic to James and Millie, her new foster parents, but they are equally determined to stick with her, and give her every chance of happiness.

It’s an excellent start to what proves to be a well-written and interesting novel. I had forgotten when I started reading it that it was listed as Christian fiction; as a Christian myself that isn’t in itself a problem, but some American Christian fiction is poorly written and fluffy, or so full of preaching that it becomes annoying. Happily that isn't the case for this book. James and Millie are church leaders, and inevitably church life is significant in the book, but it’s not pushy. Katie is accepted for who she is, with all her faults.

And, indeed, things are starting to work out in positive ways when Katie falls in with a bad crowd at school, and gets involved, unwittingly, in a disaster which threatens her new life. James and Millie become more realistic after this, as they find it hard to forgive, and we gradually discover a secret in their lives which threatens to destroy their marriage.

I liked Katie very much. Underneath the aggressive mask, she’s a likable, caring person who is longing for real love. Her self-esteem is terrible, and she’s convinced she doesn’t belong with ‘nice’ people. But she forms an odd love-hate bond with Millie’s unlikely (and very weird) mother Maxine. She has a strong sense of ethics and justice too, in a humanitarian sense.

While Maxine is (I assume) meant to be a caricatured light touch to the book, most of the important characters are three-dimensional and believable. I liked the pace of the story, and overall thought it very enjoyable. I’m even tempted to get hold of subsequent books in the Katie Parker series, although reviews suggest that they’re not as good as this one.

Recommended to teenagers or adults, so long as you don’t have a problem with Christian content. Links are to paperback editions, but at the time of writing it's still available free for the Kindle.

Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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