Katie Williams’s debut YA novel, The Space Between Trees, is a lyrical journey into the lonely world of 16-year-old Evie, a friendless teen whose life changes forever after a childhood friend, Elizabeth “Zabet” McCabe, is murdered. Evie was friends with Zabet in middle school, but they hadn’t been close for ages. Adept at small, usually innocuous stretches of the truth, Evie finds herself telling Mr. McCabe at Zabet’s funeral that she was his daughter’s best friend. Evie’s lie initially repels Hadley Smith, a troubled, unstable teen who was Zabet’s real best friend, but Hadley soon draws Evie into her dangerous obsession to find Zabet’s killer.
Evie’s strange (and often one-sided) friendship with fellow outcast Hadley is very believable, particularly since Evie has always been a loner and Hadley is her first friend in years. Author Williams has an ear for teen dialogue and also exhibits a flair for detailing human behavior, as in a scene when Evie tries to determine whether Hadley is mad at her:
Forget geometry and algebra, precalc, and all that. There should be a math class that teaches you how to plot out a face, determine the angle when a squint of an eye becomes a glare, the arc of a lip that makes a smirk into a sneer.
As Evie gets pulled deeper into Hadley’s increasingly neurotic search for Zabet’s killer, she experiences the growing pains familiar to teens, including confronting her crush on college drop-out Jonah Luks, who becomes a prime suspect in Hadley’s eyes. At the novel’s dramatic end, Evie is once again a loner, not even noticed by her classmates: “But somehow my name was never whispered, as if I were a ghost, an escapee, the space between trees, the page on which a story is written.”
An alternately moving and suspenseful coming-of-age story, The Space Between Trees admirably captures the tense drama of high school life and will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.