I have a love-hate relationship with verse novels. Despite knowing how hard of a format it is to do successfully, sometimes it seems to me the easy way out of writing a novel. This is the feeling I struggled with when I began Carol Lynch Williams’s new title Glimpse: the verse made little sense to me initially, but fortunately, it begins to make complete sense as the story forges forward.
Hope walked in on her sister Lizzie holding a gun and threatening to shoot herself, and it is that scene that causes Lizzie to be sent away to a mental health facility for the summer. This summer drags long for Hope, as she and Lizzie had always been close. Not only that, but dad was gone and mom’s new job forced Hope to leave the comforts of her home quite often. Mom had to make money some how, and her method of choice involved a new man every night.
When Hope and her mother visit Lizzie, she is extremely strange around her mother. But with Hope, she tries to act normally. Hope is on to something — she knows there is something much deeper going on with Lizzie than she or her mother will let on.
It’s the diary that will tell it all. But just how will Hope be able to track down Lizzie’s diary in the house her mother made them abandon?
Glimpse is a fast-paced story that, despite its pacing, requires a slow reading to pick up on the clues of who Hope and Lizzie really are. Although I didn’t predict the ending, it was foreshadowed quite a bit throughout the text.
The verse format’s sparseness is perfect for the story telling, as the clues to Lizzie’s breakdown and desire to kill herself are pepper throughout but only, well, sparsely. The haunting and mysterious tone of those novel mirror that, as well. As a reader, I feel at once removed from the situation and entirely close to it — but never close enough to put my finger on it. The reader is really Hope, pulling together the broken pieces.
Our narrator here is reliable because of this. I initially didn’t feel much for Hope, but as things began getting stranger with her mother and Lizzie, I began to really sympathize with Hope. The powerful ending made me want to remove Hope from the entire situation, and it made me feel a lot for Lizzie, who I initially saw as selfish.
Glimpse is a powerful book to follow Williams’s prior title, The Chosen One. She has a powerful eye for crafting realistic characters and gripping situations, and I think that Glimpse is a title we’ll be hearing about come awards time. This will appeal to fans of Thalia Chaltas’s Because I am Furniture, though I don’t know quite how much Ellen Hopkins fans will find this satisfying — it’s got some grit, but it is not in the same category as Hopkins’s titles. It’ll also work well for fans of Julie Ann Peters and for fans of the realistic fiction (but not necessarily “issue” driven) titles.