Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Miles Between

The Miles Between by Mary Pearson. Henry Holt & Co. 2009. Audiobook Brilliance Audio 2009. Narrated by Jeannie Stith. Reviewed from audiobook provided by Brilliance Audio.

The Plot: Destiny Farraday is subject to her parents whims. Since age 7, she has been shipped from boarding school to boarding school. Just as she settles in one, they decide to send her someplace new. Ten years later, she's learned her lessons. Don't trust anyone. Don't make friends. Whatever you do, don't love anyone. Any day now, she may have to leave Hedgebrook Academy. When the one person she can count on, Aunt Edie, doesn't show up for a scheduled visit. Des wishes that for just once, life would be fair; that she would get one fair day.

When Des sees the car -- the pink convertible -- it looks so, well, inviting. Literally. Door open, engine running. She doesn't think twice; she decides to just go. Problem? She cannot drive. So she asks Seth. And Mira sees them and comes along; and then Aidan; and now these four have escaped school for one day, one fair day.

Is there such a thing as a fair day?

The Good: This isn't a book about a boarding school; it's about a road trip, as Des decides to visit her home town and confront the parents who abandoned her. Along the way, Des learns about Mira, Seth, and Aidan, finding out that they are more than the faces and quirks she observes over breakfast or in class. Des has done such a good job at keeping the world at arm's length that she has created barriers and, well, she just isn't good with people. But today, Des's fair day, that will change.

Des hasn't just created barriers between herself and those at school. There are also barriers between Des and the reader; protections in place. Things being half told. Destiny has been sent to boarding school at age seven? Do they even still have boarding schools for children that young, I wondered, isn't that something out of old English films? What's going on? What's happened? What did Destiny do, to get sent away? What has she done that they pull her from one school to another? Des cannot help herself; she slips, now and then, with details about her past.

The miles between. The miles between Des and her parents are disappearing, as the car she has kind of stolen gets closer and closer to her home town. Of course, she hasn't told Seth and the others the car isn't hers; she hasn't told them that the town they are approaching is the one she lived in for her first seven years. The miles between Des and other people are also disappearing; you cannot spend all that time in a car with people and remain casual acquaintances.

Des has a few quirks; some from being alone so much, moving around so much. She examines things; as she explains, "I pay attention to dates, numbers, and circumstance. Obsessively, some say. I prefer to think of it as careful observation, finding the pattern to coincidence. Can there really be such a thing as a pattern to coincidence? It would seem to defy the very definition. But many things are not what they seem to be."

So much in Des's life has not made sense, that she tries to gain control over disorder, chaos, and disappointment by viewing things as logical. Seeing patterns, discovering the same numbers again and again, finding stories about other coincidences that seem to defy logic -- yet happened. Des's viewpoint infuses the whole story, to the point where it almost seems like The Miles Between is magical realism. But the magic comes not from magic, but from Des's belief in a pattern. And that bleeds over from Des's own life to those of Seth, Aidan, Mira, as she finds out what each needs to have a "fair" day. And somehow, that fair thing happens.

A fair day. Not a good day; not a happy day. Not a day where you get what you want. Rather -- a fair day. What would your fair day be?

The Miles Between is not like The Adoration of Jenna Fox or A Room on Lorelei Street; I love how plot-wise, these books vary so much; how character wise, Jenna, Zoe, and Des are so unlike each other. But there are similarities, other than the obvious -- that Pearson is a talented writer that delights you with each story she tells and creates vibrant, real settings. It's also that each story is about a character finding out truths about herself, figuring out how to connect with the greater world.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

1 comment:

CLM said...

The Fessenden School, a couple miles from where I live, takes boarders as young as 5th grade (all boys), and Rumsey Hall in CT (coed) starts that young too, I think. I assume it is more of an East Coast tradition. I think it is much more common to start boarding in 9th, however. At the 7-12 school I attended, we had a number of 5 day boarders and a bunch of girls from South America, but boarders were phased out soon after I graduated (a pity because the food was much better then).