Touching the Surface

Touching the Surface

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Touching the Surface
Publisher
Genre(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
October 30, 2012
ISBN
978-1442440029
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Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right. Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

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(Updated: October 24, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
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Utterly Enchanting

One of my very favorite subgenres of fiction deals with stories about the afterlife. I spend a rather indecent amount of time considering what life after death might consist of and my only completed work of fiction dealt with that topic. Touching the Surface has been on my radar because of its subject matter, its beautiful cover (which looks like the work of my friend Annie and fits the book perfectly), and the author's participation in the Apocalypsies. As ever when embarking upon a book with high hopes, I dreaded disappointment, but instead found a beautiful, quirky, emotional, clever, sweet, dark, magical read.

Sabatini's vision of the afterlife enthralled my imagination completely. She combines familiar concepts into something fresh and compelling. The concept of reincarnation has always called to me far more than most religious ideas, so I loved that Sabatini included that. She also put her own spin on it with the idea that, on a soul's third failure to reach some sort of enlightenment and whatever next step that brings, the soul's memories are wiped. This forces delving, a slow recapturing of the previous life's memories that allows for deeper reflection and analysis, removing preconceptions and errors kept in ordinary memory. Delving is also a group experience, not just a personal one, so that others can try to help the Third Timers figure out what has kept them from moving on.

Another fascinating element of this is the bodiless nature of the characters. They are all technically embodied throughout the book, but they have not always worn that body. In her first life, Elliot and her best friend Julia were twin brothers named Arty and Jim. The souls simply continue to wear the body and use the name of their last life until they reenter the stream to a new one. The souls can idenitfy one another by their scent that remains constant from body to body. Though she occasionally comments on appearances, the personality obviously factors in much more in how others seem to her.

The other main delightful quirk about the afterlife is the ability to manifest the mind's landscape physically. Thoughts can be created, from a lake to a mountain to a book the soul wants to read. Within the Obmil, this afterlife, the body cannot be injured and seems to have so much power. Not gonna lie, I would want to stay there and would try to get my friends to stay too. Of course, when you have a bad day, you literally will be stuck in a storm cloud of your own devising, but that's a small price to pay for the perks.

Alright, now that I'm done fangirling over the world building, I should probably discuss the plot a bit, shouldn't I? At the outset, I was a bit concerned that the book was heading for a stereotypical romance plot line: a rift between two best friends, a beautiful boy she feels inextricably drawn to (Oliver), a hot, angry boy who also seems to be part of her past (Trevor), and a love square between the four. Thankfully, this got cleared up pretty quickly and the characters did what was right for them, rather than conforming to tropes. Though the emotions become intense alarmingly quickly, it helped set the scene and conveyed the confusion Elliot felt being confronted with people who remembered her that she could not yet recall.

Elliot is a great character. She doesn't kick butt. She's sometimes weak. She's selfish, and sometimes a bully. All of that makes her who she is, and, even at her worst, I still felt for her and got her motivations. She manages to feel utterly real, especially in her struggle to find a sense of self, and her blithe unawareness of how she can steamroll others. Elliot wants to move on, hates having come back as a Third Timer, but she fears delving into her memories. Obviously, death in one's teen years doesn't signify a happy story.

The book alternates between the fantasy lanscape of Obmil and flashbacks to the characters' memories of their previous lives. This allows Sabatini to confront both gritty real life issues and psychological struggles. The flashbacks also explain why the characters feel the way they do about one another in the beginning, often for reasons even they don't know. This storytelling method adds a lot of tension to the tale and kept me flipping pages.

I dearly love Trevor. Oliver may be the nice one, though he shows some darker moods too (which I like), but I always have been drawn to the moody ones. Watching Trevor open up is delightful and he definitely puts hummingbirds in my stomach, let me tell you. What I love best is the way he changes the slogan on his t-shirt to match his emotions, generally with a sarcastic comment.

Ending books about the afterlife is generally pretty tricky, more so than with other genres perhaps. Sabatini's ending worked perfectly, I felt. I didn't anticipate quite the direction it would go in, and I really appreciated that. Nothing's wrapped up exactly, but it feels complete.

Kimberly Sabatini's debut blew me away and I know Touching the Surface is a book that I will be rereading. For a book with similar themes that does some wholly different things, check out Level 2 by fellow Apocalypsie Lenore Appelhans.

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A Debut That Will Take the World By Storm

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini was one of the most touching, beautiful books I have ever had the chance to read. It was marvelous in just about every way, and was a perfect debut from Kimberly Sabatini.

I loved Kimberly Sabatini‘s take on the afterlife. It was refreshing and new. Kimberly Sabatini managed to create this perfect balance in Touching the Surface – there were just the right amount of funny scenes to balance out the more serious, and it was such a treat to read. Kimberly Sabatini addresses so many issues in Touching the Surfance – the idea of death and the afterlife, love, what the true meaning of friendship is and much more. I really loved the message she was sending.

Trevor’s t-shirts were so funny. He had a different phrase on them in every scene ranging from things like “I reject your reality and substitute my own” to “I don’t discriminate. I hate everyone”. Touching the Surface had some of the most adorable scenes I have read in a very long time. I seriously had to reread some of them, while I sat there smiling to myself.

Kimberly Sabatini‘s prose is gorgeous. I sat there staring at the words on the page in awe, and felt the urge to write down so many phrases as the entire book was so quotable.

The characters were all so diverse from one another, and I just loved them all. Oliver, Trevor, Elliot, Mel, the whole gang was just great. I loved watching them all grow throughout the book, as they worked to find their paths. Trevor and Elliot were so interesting – as they started out as slightly unlikable characters. By the end, I adored both of them so much, and was sad to see their story end. Freddie and Mel were my other favorite characters of the book. Something about them was just so warm and nice.

Touching the Surface is the kind of book I can press into everyone’s hands, and regardless of their genre preference, know they will enjoy. While it has fantastical elements, it reads like a contemporary, and the characters create some of the most touching bonds of friendship throughout the course of the novel. I really cannot wait for another book from Kimberly Sabatini.

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A Wonderful Debut

Touching the Surface is as much as about how to live life as it is about what happens after you die. Although Elliot, the main character, isn't always the most likable person, Kimberly Sabatini managed to write her in a way that made me root for Elliot the whole story. There was enough mystery in Elliot's journey that I wanted to read as fast as I could to the end, but the beautiful writing and images made me slow down and savor the language. A wonderful debut novel!

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Hobbitsies Reviews: Beautiful writing, had me in tears

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini blew my freaking mind. Touching the Surface is one of those books where I was going “what the effffff” all the way through and still found myself sobbing at the end.

I’m at a loss to describe my feelings for Touching the Surface. It was just unbelievably beautiful and freaking confusing and just one of those books that is going to stick with me.

I loved that Touching the Surface was a book involving the afterlife, but wasn’t pushing any beliefs down my throat. Kimberly Sabatini creates an amazing world out of the afterlife and what a concept it is. I loved all the different aspects, like delving into memories of their past life. And being able to alter their afterlife with just a thought, whether it’s adding in a lake or just simply changing a phrase on a t-shirt.

Touching the Surface has a lot of heart. The characters all felt so real and their issues were just heartbreaking. Because even though it was such a strange and unfamiliar setting, the issues were so real – loss, fighting with family, with best friends, heartbreak, etc. It was a really relatable story, even though the setting was just so mind-blowingly weird/awesome.

My review of Touching the Surface is a bit strange, but Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini is a strange book – but in amazing way. The writing is beautiful, the story is heartbreaking, and despite my feelings of what in the world, I was just sobbing at the end of it all. It was hard for me to let go of the characters in Touching the Surface. Definitely be sure to pick it up!

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