Title: Between You And Me
Authors: Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin
Publisher: Simor & Schuster
Imprint: Atria Books
Pub. Date: June 12, 2012
The publisher’s summary:
In Between You and Me, twenty-seven-year-old Logan Wade has built a life for herself in New York City, far from her unhappy childhood in Oklahoma. But when she gets the call that her famous cousin needs a new assistant, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. Logan hasn’t seen Kelsey since they were separated as kids; in the meantime, Kelsey Wade has become one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful celebrities and carrion for the paparazzi. But the joy at their reunion is overshadowed by the toxic dynamic between Kelsey and her controlling parents. As Kelsey grasps desperately at a “real” life, Logan risks everything to try and give her cousin the one thing she has never known—happiness. As Kelsey unravels in the most horribly public way Logan finds that she will ultimately have to choose between saving her cousin and saving herself.
Between You and Me has the kind of ripped from the headlines plot you expect from an episode of Law & Order. That’s not to say that this kind of inspiration is illegitimate; even Joyce Carol Oates took this route with her JonBenet Ramsey inspired novel My Sister, My Love. The allure of Between You & Me lies in how closely it shadows the story of Britney Spears’ personal struggles. People like gossip, and it’s fun to read a story that allows you to imagine you’re discovering all the inside dirt on a (fictional) pop star so similar to Britney Spears that their names are almost interchangeable.
So far, so good. But the problem is that Kraus and McLaughlin have established a pattern of novels that have happy endings. Coming to the tragic ending of Between You & Me feels like being mauled by a chihuahua: while not truly painful, it’s totally unexpected. Surprising the reader is usually a good thing. But when you read a book by Kraus and McLaughlin, you expect glossy, fast-paced fun. Between You & Me adheres so closely to its inspiration that it forgoes the necessary happy ending of a fun read.
Kraus and McLaughlin alter the outcome of Kelsey’s tumultuous life to make her ultimate situation even worse than that of Britney Spears. Instead of suffering from an actual mental illness, Kelsey is the victim of a Gothic plot cooked up by her parents to retain control over her. After she rebels against her parents, Kelsey is placed under conservatorship despite the fact that she’s healthy and able to run her own life. It’s hard to decide which is more appalling: the real life example of Spears, in which a mentally ill woman legally under the control of her parents is pimped out for millions, or the fictional example of a healthy woman who accedes the legal control of her life to her parents because she’s sick of fighting for freedom from their pimping.
For the most part, the novel is well written enough to make you ignore the stock descriptions, constant label-checking and sentences so sloppy they weigh down paragraphs like lead balloons. But you don’t read a book like Between You & Me for its fine prose, and the novel fulfills its promise to entertain. Fans of Kraus & McLaughlin will enjoy the book, as will anyone who is looking for a decent beach read. The ending may even appeal to those who haven’t gotten a dose of fictional schadenfreude lately. Being forewarned about the ending should make the reading experience as reliable as it typically is for this genre and these authors.