Book Reviews

Bubble Talk: Brenna Yovanoff and The Space Between

Welcome to the sixth edition of Bubble Talk, where I interview some truly amazing authors and tell you all about their books! Today is Halloween, so I’ve got a special guest and her creepy, brilliant book over to play. Say hi to Brenna Yovanoff and The Space Between!

Angel: The Space Between is a unique story in YA literature: not many books are written about a demoness’ daughter. What made you want to write Daphne’s story?

Brenna: The first reason Daphne’s story interested me is that I’ve always been very fascinated with dichotomies. I have a really impossible time thinking in absolutes (seriously, my villains are typically an ocean of gray area), and I wanted to write a book that let me look at things like good and evil from a lot of different sides. I started thinking about how a lot of things can be genetic, but goodness isn’t really one of those things, and what would you do if you came from a long line of demons, but you weren’t demonic by temperament. Daphne and Obie both developed out of the same question, and even having similar origins, they’re totally different from the rest of their family, as well as from each other.

Angel: Daphne and Obie share a connection, though Daphne doesn’t seem to understand it. Was it difficult to get into her head and steer her towards that knowledge?

Brenna: Daphne was a really tricky character for me because while she’s very well-meaning by nature, at the beginning of the book, she’s so emotionally stunted that it was basically like watching a little robot. There are things she feels strongly about, but it’s still on this very intellectual level that doesn’t translate into action. Once she gets to earth though, things really become a lot more raw for her and she has a much deeper understanding of humanity, just going through some of the things that people deal with every day. I thinking finding herself living some of the aspects of Obie’s life really helps her recognize the bond they share.

Angel: Did you write a lot of backstory for The Space Between? If so, which character ended up with the most backstory?

Brenna: Oh, the backstory! Pages. No, hundreds of pages. The character with the most going on behind the scenes is easily Lilith, although through her experiences, we get a lot more insight into Lucifer and Beelzebub, too. Basically, the adult characters had this very active, longstanding history together, but it just had no place in the context of Daphne’s story, which is very much in the here-and-now, so I wound up writing basically their whole life together, and then leaving it all out.

AngelTruman is a troubled teenager and goes on a journey of his own, alongside Daphne. Did anything about their personalities or decisions surprise you as you wrote the story?

I think the thing that surprised me most was the intensity of their attachment and compassion for each other, even though that connection had been what I’d intended for them from the start. At the beginning of the book, they’re both just so damaged. Daphne’s spent her whole life in this kind of emotional stasis, and Truman is … well, I guess the kindest way to say it is, he’s got some bad tunnel vision when it comes to his life. While his issues are understandable, he’s still not really in any shape to be worrying about anyone else, and I was delighted that they could both step outside their own problems and see each other.

AngelWhat was your favourite part of the novel to write? Can you share a favourite passage?

Brenna: I think some of my favorite parts to write were the descriptions of Daphne’s sisters, who are just wild and decadent and totally unapologetic. Here’s a little snippet from near the beginning, when two of her (half-) sisters come parading into her room:

Deirdre sighs and smiles, backing me into the corner by the vanity. She touches my face, smoothing her thumb against my cheek. “You’re so lucky your father was an angel. Your teeth are almost perfect.”

When she brushes my lips with the tip of her finger, I shrug her off and retreat behind the sofa. “Leave me alone.”

She grimaces at the red smear on her hand, then wipes her fingers on her dress. “Are you wearing lipstick? Honestly, Daphne. We have to get you some real makeup.”

Her own face is expertly made up in the colors of the Lilim, red embers and white ashes. Her mouth is hot with melted brimstone and soot is smeared black in the hollows of her eyes.

AngelI loved the ending and won’t ask for a sequel, but if you had to write a companion novel, who would it be about?

Hmm … if I were to try a companion story, I would probably choose either Raymie or Moloch as the main character. I think each of them would bring a certain flair to the table. In their ways, they’re each very capable and resolute, and I think they would be good about really getting out there and going after what they wanted. Both of them are more demonic than Daphne, but they still have a certain humanity to them at the core.

Angel: What would you say to a sixteen-year-old Brenna about faith?

Brenna: Well, first I just have to say that in some ways, sixteen-year-old Brenna is a little like Daphne, in that she’s very orderly and rational, but still quite cheerful and easily pleased by small things. So, I think what I would say to her is this: every single thing in the whole world does not need to be broken down into tiny scientific pieces in order for it to make sense. The world is big and unpredictable and wild, and there will be days when you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. And that’s okay, because sometimes that’s just what it means to be part of the world.

Thanks so much for the great questions!

Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped – and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie’s whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanoff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.

Discovery: The Replacement was a novel that came out of nowhere and became one of my favourite supernatural stories, but I didn’t hear about The Space Between until July. Luckily, I was a volunteer at Fan Expo Canada and was able to score an ARC from Penguin Canada’s booth.

+     Mythology/folklore. Brenna has always had a knack for giving familiar tales her own darker twist, and The Space Between is no exception. Lilith may not be a familiar figure to most readers, but to those who do know her story will be pleased with Brenna’s reinterpretation. For those who don’t know that piece of Hebrew folklore, Lilith is said to be the first wife of Adam. Yes, that Adam. When they were together in the Garden of Eden, Lilith refused to lie under Adam; she was punished for her disobedience and sent out of the Garden. She later became Lucifer’s consort and gave birth to thousands of demons. Of course, this is only the Cliffnotes version of the tale and there are many more stories that add to the myth. Still, Lilith looms large in Brenna’s novel and it is very easy to see just where Daphne gets her strength. As you may have read in my interview, Brenna had dozens of pages of backstory for Lilith.

+     Good vs. evil vs. evil vs. good. You probably read that and thought, “huh?”  Obviously, Daphne is the protagonist, but she is not “good” in any way that we would recognize. It is jarring to remember that she is a demon, one of the Lilim and daughter of Lucifer, which would automatically make her “evil” in our eyes. The Space Between challenges readers to expand their notion of good and evil, and to realize that no choice is ever truly black-and-white. Interestingly enough, Daphne’s narrative does not force the reader to make a decision on who is right and who is wrong. The alternating points-of-view add another layer of duality to the story, especially since Daphne’s chapters are told from the first-person POV and Truman’s from a third-person limited POV.

+     Writing style. The Space Between is a dark, complicated story but Brenna Yovanoff’s writing is a glimmering light in the shadows that the reader must endure. As I mentioned above, the novel is written in two points-of-view and they couldn’t be more different. Daphne is a careful, distant narrator who sheds her cautiousness as the novel goes on. In many ways, she resembles the reader: unsure, maybe a little confused, and certainly curious about her own future. Truman’s pain is evident in his words and in the things he chooses to focus on. Some may note the irony that he would fall for a girl who will literally lead him into hell, but what is hell? It’s clear that for Truman, hell can’t be much worse than the life he is living.

Honestly, it is difficult for me to read stories about demons because without a deft and talented hand to guide them, even the most brilliant premises fall flat. It takes someone who understands just how complicated humanity is to write a story about angels and demons. I’m grateful Brenna Yovanoff chose to do so.

Recommendations: The story might be a little dark for the younger crowd–violence and suicide are mentioned multiple times–but the delicate narrative will leave readers breathless and thoughtful.

Rating: Excellent.

Go visit Brenna Yovanoff at her website and follow her on Twitter @brennayovanoff.

You can check out The Space Between on Goodreads and pre-order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

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