Echoes Between Us

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Echoes Between Us Book Poster Image
Teens haunted by more than ghosts in contrived romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information on migraines: how they feel, their affect the life of the person who has them, and treatment. Some insight into brain tumor treatment. A diary from the early 1900s shows what life was like for a person in a sanatorium for tuberculosis. Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon meetings described. List of resources at the back for the book for AA, Al-Anon, depression, and suicide.

Positive Messages

Don't form opinions about people before you get to know them. Most people are battling personal problems that aren't apparent. Being a good friend means standing by your friends in tough times and pushing your friends to do the right thing, even when it's hard. Many secrets are destructive to the secret keeper. Other people's happiness is not your responsibility. Help is out there if you need it, even if you have to go to an anonymous meeting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Victoria is smart and comfortable with herself. She doesn't care that she's different than most kids in school. Her desire to spare people around her pain causes her to make some poor choices, but her heart is in the right place. Sawyer is kindhearted and cares deeply for the people in his life. He has an addiction, but he works hard to battle it. Veronica's dad is loving and open with his daughter. He gives her freedom, but expects responsibility in return. Veronica's and Sawyer's friends are good people, even if they are judgmental at times.

Violence

Two teens fall down an embankment. They get injured, but not seriously. Teen breaks his arm and suffers other injuries from life-risking jumps into quarries. Character experiences extreme pain and vomiting from migraines. Possible ghosts scare residents of an old house. Teens see and feel the presence of spirits on several occasions. Verbal bullying and name calling. Tension between guys and the threat of fights, but none happen. Parent emotionally abuses her son.

Sex

Longing and desire features heavily in the story. Most of the book centers on crushes, flirting, dating, and relationship issues. Multiple descriptions of characters' attractive features and sexiness. Lots of graphic descriptions of kissing and heavy make-out sessions. Teen walks in on adult having sex.

Language

Infrequent strong language includes "God," "ass," "crap," "balls," "damn," "dammit," "bastard," "bitch," "pissed," and "hell."

Consumerism

A few brands and media mentioned for scene setting, including U-Haul, Call of Duty, Uber, Cadillac, Chevy Impala, Lexus, BMW, Google, and Sprite.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some pot smoking for medicinal purposes. Teen and parent discuss the use of medical marijuana and agree to its use only when necessary. A teen smokes a cigarette once. A parent is in denial about her drinking problem. Story shows the difference between social drinking and alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are featured in the story.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Echoes Between Us, by Katie McGarry, is a romance novel about two teens falling in love, their personal problems, and ghosts. The teens, Veronica and Sawyer, are opposites. She's an outsider at school, due to her nonmainstream way of dressing and quirky behavior. He's a popular swimmer, with a clique of equally popular friends who say mean things about Victoria. Each has painful personal secrets that keep them from living their lives to the fullest. Sawyer, his mom, and sister move into a supposedly haunted flat below Victoria and her dad, and some unexplained occurrences and visions back up the idea of ghosts. When Veronica and Sawyer end up working together on a school project, they see each other in a new light, with romance and complications following. Because it's a romance, expect lots of descriptive kissing and making out, plus numerous descriptions of how attractive and sexy each character is. The ghost aspect isn't too scary, especially for teen and older readers. Strong language is minimal (inlcuding "damn," "ass," "bitch"). There's some drinking and drug use, though the only drug use is medical marijuana and the drinking is by an adult with a drinking problem. The story offers good discussion topics around communication between kids and parents, and how to ask for help from friends and family when you're in a tough spot. The author lists some crisis resources at the end of the book.

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What's the story?

In ECHOES BETWEEN US, two teens get caught up in a tangle of love, ghosts, and deep secrets. Quirky girl Veronica lives with her widower dad in a big house that's split into two flats and might be haunted. Popular jock Sawyer moves in downstairs with his divorced mom and little sister. The two teens end up working on an important school project together, one that involves hunting ghosts. As their attraction to each other grows, the secrets they keep threaten to drive them apart. Both feel that maintaining a strong facade will help hold their families together, when in reality, the stress is damaging them and their families. Veronica's afraid to share her health concerns with her dad because her mother died of a similar illness. She's also reluctant to get too close anyone, thinking she's sparing them pain if she ends up being sicker than she realizes. Sawyer's reeling from his parent's divorce and his dad's abandonment. He takes on the responsibility of being a parent to his little sister and, at times, to his mother. In addition, he's hiding an adrenaline-rush addiction that threatens his health and emotional well-being. This stress and uncertainty, along with issues with their friends, cause some soul searching and tough decisions for the two teens.

Is it any good?

This teen romance delivers on some important issues but tries to cover too much ground, losing focus in the process. Echoes Between Us tackles illness, a dead parent, addiction, enabling, parental abandonment, romance, ghosts, bullying, learning disabilities, and ebbing friendships. A diary of a young woman with tuberculosis in the early 1900s is thrown in for good measure. The story ends up feeling contrived, as through it were written by a focus group, picking various plot lines and character types from bestselling YA novels. This might, in fact, appeal to readers who can't get enough of turbulent teen romances.

Author Katie McGarry does a solid job of showing the costs to teens who shoulder too heavy a physical and emotional burden. Victoria feels responsible for her dad's happiness after her mom dies, and Sawyer feels he's forced to care for his sister and his mom. In wanting to keep their family lives stable, both hide important problems from their families. These are common and relatable issues for teens and adults. Showing Victoria and Sawyer seeking help and learning lessons in how to care for themselves is the best part of the book. Unfortunately, the good aspects of the book get buried under the numerous plot lines.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Echoes Between Us explores honesty between parents and kids. Many books and movies show kids dealing with serious issues alone and trying to be strong for their families. Do you think this is healthy for the kids? Are these depictions realistic to you?

  • Do you judge people you've never met, just based on the way the dress or who their friends are? Have you ever judged someone then found out that person was different from what you assumed?

  • Do you think ghosts or spiritual energy is real? If so, why? If not, what would it take for you to believe it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and illness stories

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